Monday, September 21, 2009

Slow Like Mo-lasses

Yeats has gone posing this fundamental question: "Perfection of the LIFE or of the WORK?"
(Question mark added)
My husband has gone borrowing the question- embedded in the text of an entire poem on this theme- and placing it in my bag where I will discover it in the first months of our marriage. I will be at work that morning while he is still in bed, yet to start his day at University. I will feel sick to my stomach because it is early, and I am allergic to early. I will loathe where I am because it is perfection of nothing. But there are dollars to be had at the end of the day, and we are in great need of dollars.

We are ten years on from my discovery of Yeats' poem in a frame in my bag. I kept it in view during every hour I ever worked for pay. I could rest my fingertips on the keyboard at my desk, close my eyes and see the words speaking to me, insisting that the choice is living, it demands deliberateness.

The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it takes the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.
W.B. Yeats

Well, I am no fan of remorse. Neither was Yeats, and he published his own choice through the image of a good many of his poems. Here is the one that paints my picture-my choice.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and waddles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
W.B. Yeats

So.....obviously the new fundamental question becomes - what is the address of the "bee-loud glade"?
I am confident I am not allergic to early in this place.

Is Yeats testing me? Is my husband testing me? I could sell all and seek the "purple glow" in a little corner of Ireland. But surely, perfection of the life can be had in my back yard. I don't have a cabin-I have a home of bricks and mortar made. I don't have nine bean rows-I have five. I don't live alone-I live with love, from husband and three children.


This is not the beginning of a poem. This is my admission to family, the world, and these witnesses, that my peace does, indeed, come dropping slow. Slow like mo-lasses. Slow like a big old oak tree. Slow like a three-year-old putting their shoes on. My peace comes dropping so slow that the last detectable drop was in 2003 before that first child came to my Innisfree.
Yeats had peace, I have children. Would I trade? No. He paints a pretty picture, but it's a bit of a lonely pretty picture.

Mine may be a children-loud glade, but my glade is is perfection-of-the-life-good.


Michelle said...


Oh how I miss you and your eloquent words!! I am glad you have a blog. I hope you add pictures to it too so we can see how cute your family is.

I have a blog too, I will send you the address. I try to update it often but it has been a while.

I miss you!! We need to get together!!

Emily said...

Yours are words that make me glad I can read.

Menner said...

I wish I could write like you.

That was beautiful.

Wayne said...

You make a father proud
that his gift has been surpassed.

shelley said...

I feel peace having read beautiful words from Yeats and you.