It is a strange experience revisiting a poet who used to mean a lot to you, and who you have not thought of for years.
A few days ago, a friend was speaking of her fears for the world where we have global warming, and declining educational standards, and a plethora of officious bullying people with no sensitivity at all. She is (in the expressive Scotticism) not wrong. But I found Yeat’s Lapis Lazuli running in my head for the first time in many years ‘then they and their wisdom went to rack … all things fall, and are built again, and those that build them again are gay.’
Then I fell into contemplating a friend’s friend, and Yeat’s sixty year old smiling public man was there before me.
What a power the poets have to interpret our experiences, and to form them. Strange that after, oh thirty years, I could remember Lapis Lazuli almost word for word. I suppose those convictions which make me ‘really religious’ are a wall formed of many stones of hope and experience and the writings of others, and it is the stones which make (pace Yeats) the centre hold. Because it does hold. Despite all my doubts, I find I believe the centre of things is wholesome and true. It is to be approached with caution (I don’t think it is tame and I am not sure it is ‘safe’ in any sense that we understand it) but I am certain it is true and sound and joyous. And I don’t think it is out to do us down.
But that is not to say the world is not infinitely tragic – so much so that it cannot grow by an inch or an ounce. So I have come back to wonder that my seventeen year old self could have seen that and lived it for so long. Yeats for the canon, anybody?