Thursday, 23 February 2012

W B Yeats - 'High Talk' (and Facial Hair)


Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern stalks upon higher,
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence or a fire.
Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, make but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon his timber toes,
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at the pane,
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to chisel and plane.

Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.
All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.

I do not have much to say tonight, being comprehensively brain-dead. But I wanted to post this relatively little-known poem by Yeats, which has been one of my favourites for a good fifteen years or so. Wonderful and toweringly strange...

As well, this gives me an opportunity to post a rare picture of the young Yeats in his relatively little-known beard phase.

1 comment:

  1. I should add that there is an excellent in-depth discussion of this amazing Yeats poem in this Bloodaxe blog post, by Gjertrud Schnackenberg.