04 March 2011

The Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity

The Leaders of the Crowd

They must to keep their certainty accuse
All that are different of a base intent;
Pull down established honour; hawk for news
Whatever their loose fantasy invent
And murmur it with bated breath, as though
The abounding gutter had been Helicon
Or calumny a song. How can they know
Truth flourishes where the student's lamp has shone,
And there alone, that have no Solitude?
So the crowd come they care not what may come.
They have loud music, hope every day renewed
And heartier loves; that lamp is from the tomb.

The lamp is from the tomb it shines on what is most thoughtful, pensive, poetic and self-gathered in the books that have been handed down to us from the dead; truth like the soul is shy and self-concealing; it's only by taking our distance from the immediacy of the world, muffling the din and listening to the silence that we can hear the quieter voices of the ceremony of innocence and that means first and foremost the voice of the poets. What do we have to learn from poets? Chiefly this that all hatred driven hence the soul recovers radical innocence and learns that it is self-delighting, self-appeasing, self-affrighting; and this, that since truth is most at home in the dark, the student's lamp shines on things hidden away from those that dance to the frenzied drum of the times. Why should we belong to the times? Poetry, study, learning allow us to become untimely, and its invariably in the untimely that the deep worthwhile truths lie buried. [emphasis added] (RP Harrison, intro to radio show on Yeats)

The Second Coming

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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