April 30, 2004

Derbyshire on Yeats:

... "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" still makes the bristles stand up on the back of my neck. Yeats came to hate this poem, through having had to recite it, by request, at every reading he gave, all his long life. (He wrote the poem when he was 23; he lived to be 73.) You can understand how he felt, but there is no denying that it's an exceptionally beautiful poem, one of the half-dozen best in our language.

It is a measure of the greatness of poems like this that they almost cannot become trite or worn. They are like gold, which never rusts. ("Almost" because obviously the poor poet, having to declaim the thing to a roomful of adoring listeners for the 1,079th time, is an exception.) The same is true of Wordsworth's "Daffodils," which still does it for me, though it really ought to come across as corny as Kansas in August.

Now, here in a Long Island suburban April, the daffodils are out all around. The poem comes to mind at the sight of them, and is as fresh and lovely as the flowers themselves.

This I hope I shall never lose — I mean, I hope I shall never get so world-weary that these spells no longer work for me.

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