Sunday, November 12, 2006

Adam’s Curse: W.B. Yeats

We sat together at one summer's end,
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'

. . . . . . . . . And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, 'To be born woman is to know-
Although they do not talk of it at school-
That we must labour to be beautiful.'

I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Adam’s Curse is perhaps the greatest poem of the volume ‘In the Seven Woods’ of W.B. Yeats. The apparent theme of the poem is the poet’s futile love for Maud Gonne, a revolutionary woman of the Irish National movement. It is a conversation poem involving Maud Gonne, her sister Mrs. Kathleen Pitcher and Yeats himself. It is addressed to Maud who remains silent throughout. It is addressed to Mud who remains silent throughout. They are talking about poetry. The poet finds a contrast between Maud and her well dressed sister. The later is beautiful and attractive. Her voice is sweet and low. In reply Kathleen says that it requires hard labor to be beautiful. Yeats admits and says that love says that love is a very painstaking affairs. In his case his love for Maud Gonne fails because his is a something like a highway courtesy love having little labor. The three sit together thus and are talking about love till the evening or day light dies. Like the hollow-moon the poet and Maud now look weary-hearted, yet in a sense happy.

Critical comments:
Yeats very aptly connects his unhappiness in love with beautiful poetry and love. It is Yeats’ self-pity. The very title of the poem indicates loss of innocence and idyllic happiness. In the fallen state of humanity art as labor co-extensive with life brings together poetry, feminine beauty and love. All the three are the product of laborious artificial reshaping or refashioning of experience. Each in its own way offers variations that re-shaping or idealization of life. The poem itself is a stylistic enactment of this dialectical process; the biographical self is sufficiently transformed for a detached examination in the mask of the lover and this love becomes visible like the hollow and weary-hearted moon. As a poet Yeats was given to revising his work repeatedly. The paradox has been compared to the renaissance notion of an art that lies in concealing art. It also looks forward to the timelessness that is specific to art. The domestic imagery of stitching and unstitching unobtrusively relates poetry to women. It also anticipates the unity of the artist and the artisan. The poem is rich in symbolism.
More information:
the beckoning


lights_n_waves said...

Good criticism. Much help for my exam prep. Could do with a little grammatical correction at places though. Thanks!

RS said...

Thanks for your comment

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MDS said...

Very good.

MDS said...

I liked it.