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Happy Birthday Billy Butler

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Yes, it's the birthday of William Butler Yeats, born in Sandymount, Ireland, in 1865. He loved Ireland, was somewhat devastated when his father moved the family to London, which he hated. He was a daydreamer and did not do well in school. Yeats was attracted to mysticism and occultism and he had hoped that the rich, mystical Celtic heritage would bring the Irish and Anglo-Irish together. "We might bring the halves together if we had a national literature that made Ireland beautiful in the memory..."

"We begin to live when we have conceived life as tragedy."

"I think all happiness depends on the energy to assume the mask of some other life, on a re-birth as something not one's self."

and his famous epitaph:
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!


  1. Virgil's Avatar
    Oh I had no idea who you meant by the title. Of course happy birthday to W.B. Yeats, one of my all time favorite poets. Here's my favorite non-poem quote from Yeats, because I so agree with it: "I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal. The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth." And one of my favorite poetic quotes, from "Byzantium": "Astraddle on the dolphin's mire and blood,/Spirit after Spirit!"
  2. Countess's Avatar
    Now Yeats is another poet I'd gladly marry. My favorite poem by him is his lesser known Byzantium. Interestingly, this is Yeats' response to the Aesthete Movement (of which Wilde was the paramount spokesperson), which advocated that life, in fact, imitates art, not vice-versa. Here Yeats shows the superiority of art over life:

    The unpurged images of day recede;
    The Emperor's drunken soldiery are abed;
    Night resonance recedes, night walkers' song
    After great cathedral gong;
    A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
    All that man is,
    All mere complexities,
    The fury and the mire of human veins.
    Before me floats an image, man or shade,
    Shade more than man, more image than a shade;
    For Hades' bobbin bound in mummy-cloth
    May unwind the winding path;

    A mouth that has no moisture and no breath
    Breathless mouths may summon;
    I hail the superhuman;
    I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.
    Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,
    More miracle than bird or handiwork,
    Planted on the star-lit golden bough,
    Can like the cocks of Hades crow,
    Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
    In glory of changeless metal
    Common bird or petal
    And all complexities of mire or blood.
    At midnight on the Emperor's pavement flit
    Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,
    Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
    Where blood-begotten spirits come
    And all complexities of fury leave,
    Dying into a dance,
    An agony of trance,
    An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.
    Astraddle on the dolphin's mire and blood,
    Spirit after Spirit! The smithies break the flood.

    The golden smithies of the Emperor!
    Marbles of the dancing floor
    Break bitter furies of complexity,
    Those images that yet
    Fresh images beget,
    That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.