The Question of the Week is posted every Sunday and will consist of a question followed by my answer and explanation to the same. Some questions will only require a simple answer that could potentially be followed by an explanation. Many questions will be writer oriented, but not all. Everyone is encouraged to answer in the comments and discussions/follow up questions are more than welcome!
Who is your favorite poet? What’s your favorite poem?
William Butler Yeats is my favorite poet for the express purpose of penning two of my favorite poems: The Two Trees and The Second Coming, which upon examination are about the arcane Tree of Life/Sephiroth and a dark advent respectively.
I loved the song/poem so much that I choose to recite it by memory in my high school English class (and also because it was put to music and my auditory memory is near god-like in some ways. This is both a blessing and a curse…), though at that time I didn’t know the higher meanings of the verse. Later I started studying the Qabalah, read some fascinating interpretations, and gained a better insight. I included some of the latter in my analysis of Game of Thrones’ S5E9: “The Dance of Dragons,” and can only hope I didn’t bungle it too much.
The Second Coming was introduced to me by my favorite ASOIAF theorists, James and LaDonna. I hope I can find it. James actually reads the poem in one of his videos…probably the one about Paradise Lost, but that video is nearly 2 hours long (worth every second though), and I can’t pinpoint the exact time if it’s even there. I think there’s another video where he reads it as well, but alas, I can’t find it. I made a few recordings of myself reciting the verse, and one day I’ll update my YouTube channel with all of my inane babblings, but that will be after the WIP is finished. Because I love this poem so much, I’m going to post it in its entirety below (even though I’ve provided the link) for you to read yourself.
“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
hen 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?”
Yeats was a mystic who truly did believe in the spiritus mundi so invoked in the verse. The literal translation is “world spirit,” which to Yeats was sort of universal memory or muse that provided inspiration to all the poets and writers of the world, a collective unconscious for the creatively minded. One of my favorite and most quoted lines is “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
One of the bloggers I follow, Stuff Jeff Reads posted a fantastic analysis of it. He mentions how the further the emanations move from the dividend source or godhead, the more disconnected they become. That was his analysis of the opening lines, and I knew I’d struck gold in examinations. I mentioned how The Second Coming invoked a darker sort of Advent (then I was terrified I sounded like an idiot), but the blogger liked and agreed with me so there’s some validation.
Though Yeats wrote these works at the turn of the 20th century, they and their symbolism are still heavily used as evidenced in my two favorite narratives: ASOIAF and FFVII among others. Much of mysticism is recognizing patterns in motion and realizing that everything returns. The concept of the Second Coming itself invokes just that.
What is your favorite poem and/or poet? Did you favorite poet write your favorite poem?
I look forward to your answers in the comments!