Thursday, 14 June 2012

WORDSMITH ~ William Butler Yeats & James Joyce

 - Passion and the Power of Words

I am having a day in remembrance of two greats who have coloured my world. Yeats and James Joyce seem somehow entwined in my memory, both able to show the dark and light side of human nature and life.

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.”

 ― W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems

William Butler yeats was born in 1865, on June 13th. It is the 147 anniversary this week.

Long ago and far away his whispered and shouted words stole into my life and took me across the lake to Innisfree.

To places deep and dark and high and light that I could never have imagined without him. He allowed me an understanding of human quality and frailty.

There are many and varied delights he gave to us, but Mrs Black is insisting that I share this ode of his, to a black cat, like her. When she was still a wild cat who we could not touch she would sit on the windowsill entranced when I read her TS Eliot and Yeats. I think this one is her favourite of all cat poems.

Black Minnaloushe watches the Moon by

The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet,
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.”

 ― W.B. Yeats

It is 90 years since James Joyce published his novel Ulysses. As the feature on their 'In Our Time' BBC Radio 4 are running a version of Ulysses, dramatised by Robin Brooks and introduced by Mark Lawson. You can listen and read about it here.

Ulyssess BBC Radio 4

This is what their website says about the book.

"Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published ninety years ago in Paris, Joyce's masterpiece is a sprawling and startlingly original work charting a single day in the life of the Dubliner Leopold Bloom. Some early readers were outraged by its sexual content and daringly scatalogical humour, and the novel was banned in most English-speaking countries for a decade after it first appeared. But it was soon recognised as a genuinely innovative work: overturning the ban on its publication, an American judge described Ulysses as "a sincere and serious attempt to devise a new literary method for the observation and description of mankind."

Today Ulysses is widely regarded as the greatest example of literary modernism, and a work that changed literature forever. It remains one of the most discussed novels ever written.

Steven Connor
Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of London

Jeri Johnson
Senior Fellow in English at Exeter College, Oxford

Richard Brown
Reader in Modern English Literature at the University of Leeds

Producer: Thomas Morris."


  1. You always have such interesting posts, I love reading them. Have a lovely weekend. Sharon x

  2. The Cat and the Moon is gorgeous! Love it!

    Erm... as for Ulysses, I gave up after "paragraph" 2. I still have the book - its stacked on top of War and Peace as one of the few books I had to abandon as my brain hurt. Maybe I'll get back to them in my old age!

    Take care

    1. You are correct, it is indeed hard to read and actually it took me many years to read it all. I found a way, by doing just a few pages at a time and trying to envisage the scene. Hard to believe it all takes place on just one day. x

  3. I, too, love Butler Yeats' poems. They are wonderful and you choose such a beautiful photo for the Cat and the Moon poem!
    A very nice post indeed :)

    1. Yeats is magical isn't he? Glad you like he painting, it is one of my favourites, she has much talent. x

  4. I love the poem and picture, as well!
    I like the image of sweet Mrs. Black listening to you read Yeats to her, and seeing out the window.


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