There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is int,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
W.B. Yeats’ The Green Helmet and Other Poems, first published in book form in the year 1910, is a strange little text. Comprising of poems that are about contemporary events, – like the agitation by people against the staging of J.M. Synge’s plays at the Abbey theatre and Yeats own reaction to this boorishness of the people – as well as deeply personal as those written in anguish after Maud Gonne’s marriage to Major John MacBride in 1903. In a series of poems, he celebrates her beauty and spirit, and rues the fact that he can now only have memories of their time spent together. Comparing her to Helen, he absolves her of all blame:
Why should I blame her…
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this, Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
There is also a feeling that life has become too commercialised and the heroism of yesteryears is lost:
…horsemen for companions,
Before the merchant and the clerk
Breathed on the world with timid breath.
Sing one: somewhere at some new moon,
We’ll learn that sleeping is not death,
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,
It’s flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,
And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses.
I found the poems – with some beautiful images: shadows eaten the moon, beauty like a tightened bow, some new moon, men that ride upon horses, the lying days of my youth, love comes in at the eye, a woman Homer sung, blind bitter land – much better that the eponymous farce which discusses an old Irish legend of Cuchulain, in which Conall, Laegaire, and Cuchulain himself are vying amongst themselves to see who is the bravest and thus deserves the green helmet presented by a Red-Knight who is a shape-shifter. Unable to comply with what the spirit had asked them to do, Cuchulain offers himself to be slain. The spirit rather than killing him, declares him to be the bravest and puts the green helmet on his head.
Read the for some beautiful imagery and the anguish of a jilted lover.
First Line: I swayed upon the gaudy stern
The butt end of a steering oar,
And everywhere that I could turn
Men ran upon the shore.
Title: The Green Helmet and Other Poems
First Published: 1910
Other Books read by the same author: A number of poems
The book is in the public domain and can be downloaded from various sites. I downloaded it from gutenberg.org.
Submitted for the following challenges: AZRC, Color Coded, E Book