NO GIRLS, NO HEROES, JUST US FOOLS

fantasy-redux

The original drawing on which this post is based is a composite of the shabby student apartments I lived in my 20s often decorated with a mattress on the floor and a single framed picture above it. Which, here is shown with its glass shattered and fallen to the bed below. In the original a saurian tail and foot were shown exiting from the scene, giving it its title, “His fantasy having escaped, attacked.”

The fantasy when framed and behind glass—captured as art—was not a monster; there it was more an ikon. Only when loose in the real world did it become monstrous. This revisit does not include the literal image of fantasy escaping, and becoming real. Redrawing that, would imply that thinking a fantasy could be become real—for better or worse—was not long gone as well.

The old art, from the late ‘70s, was drawn in simple fuzzy lines, with a fountain pen on cheap paper. The new one is a digital effort with subtle shading and color. The scene of the crime is now a dark interior, sharply lit by window without a shade. The fantasy is formless, but not forgotten.

This fanaticizer is like another old fool. W.B. Yeats’ “The Fool By The Roadside.” From his book “The Tower.” The poem goes…

When all works that have
From cradle run to grave
From grave to cradle run instead
;
When thoughts that a fool
Has wound upon a spool
Are but loose thread, are but loose thread;

When cradle and spool are past
And I mere shade at last
Coagulate of stuff
Transparent like the wind,

I think that I may find
A faithful love, a faithful love.

The old fool, is a “coagulate of stuff” as well as “transparent as the wind.” The “mere shade” knows more “stuff” now, but has become invisible to the now edited/aged out next generation of girls and boys, heroes and heroines. though, this fool, not mine, still speaks of hoping that there is still a chance for his life to reverse its course and for him to find love when/where the girl and the hero couldn’t.

That poem was originally much longer and called “The Hero, the Girl, and the Fool.” In those 20 lines cut, the problems of youth—you know, being loved and revered because of illusions of strength and beauty—are cleverly dialogued by a girl and a hero. Among their comments are:

…The girl. I rage at my own image in the glass
That’s so unlike myself that when you praise it
It is as though you praised another, or even
Mocked me with praise of my mere opposite…

…The hero. I have raged at my own strength because you
Have loved it.

In other contemporary poems Yeats still comments on the difficulties of life for girls, heroes and the rest as their days recede. In “Byzantium,” also from “The Tower,” he writes:

A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
All that man is,
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins

But he casts off the silly dreaming of the roadside fool. He says, in a prologue to the above “Byzantium,” the more famous “Sailing to Byzantium, that love and all else that all that is “man,” when young, beautiful and strong, all the complexity, fury and mire that is the raging and mocking of the girl and the hero is “no country for old men.” The 60-something Nobel laureate writes that the problems of old age, death, etc. are better dealt with by art (“the artifice of eternity” and “In glory of changeless metal”) than nostalgia for lost or imaginary love. In the earlier poem he pleads:

Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

And in the revise he suggests:

“Or by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
In glory of changeless metal
Common bird or petal
And all complexities of mire or blood
.

Later, at age 70, Yeats wrote, “I find my present weakness made worse by the strange second puberty the operation has given me, the ferment that has come upon my imagination. If I write poetry it will be unlike anything I have done” (Letter to Dorothy Wellesley, 17 June 1935; cited Ellmann, “Yeats’s Second Puberty”, New York, via Wikipedia)

That operation, now thought of as quackery, was to increase his testosterone levels. I ask, why would anyone, especially a poet, want to revisit the weakness and the ferment, the fury and the mire of puberty? Go find the poems you wrote then, read them and tell me if you want to be that person again? Then read Yeats’ time-travelogue, his “strange second puberty” poems, among them this: “Imitated From the Japanese”

A MOST astonishing thing —
Seventy years have I lived;
(Hurrah for the flowers of Spring,
For Spring is here again.)
Seventy years have I lived
No ragged beggar-man,
Seventy years have I lived,
Seventy years man and boy,
And never have I danced for joy.

 

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