Posts Tagged ‘WB Yeats’

Louis Esterhuizen. Die sterwensberou van W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014


Gister, 75 jaar gelede op 28 Januarie 1939, het William Butler Yeats (foto) in ‘n gastehuis, waar hy tuisgegaan het aan die Franse Riviera, gesterf. En om dié dag te herdenk het The Atlantic ‘n berig geplaas oor die drie gedigte van Yeats wat ten tye van sy dood in die tydskrif se uitgawe vir Januarie 1939 verskyn het. Op hierdie stadium was Yeats, in die ouderdom van 73, ‘n Nobelpryswenner, voormalige lid van die Ierse Senaat, mede-oprigter van die Nasionale Teater in Ierland en ‘n digter in die volle swang van sy ambag.

En tog was hierdie laaste gedigte uit die pen van hierdie befaamde digter ‘n priemende aftakeling van eiebelang en selfwaarde; verse deurspek met verwyt en berou:  “(T)here was no gentle beauty in the three poems by Yeats that appeared in The Atlantic in January 1939, the month the poet died. All of them are brutal pieces of deathbed reckoning,” skryf The Atlantic se beriggewer.  “In Man and the Echo, the poet stands in front of a blank cliff face, racked by guilt over his role in the 1916 Easter Rising”:

I lie awake night after night
And never get the answers right.
Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot?
Did words of mine put too great strain
On that woman’s reeling brain?
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house was wrecked?
And all seems evil until I
Sleepless would lay down and die.

Ook in die daaropvolgende gedig  The Circus Animal’s Desertion dryf hy die spot met sy loopbaan as skrywer: “My circus animals were all on show,” skryf hy en vervolg met bittere selfverwyt omreder hy nooit daarin kon slaag om uitdrukking aan sy “suiwere” visie te gee nie; lê hy ten slotte op ‘n ashoop “filled with broken, hideous things”: “Now that my ladder’s gone, / I must lie down where all the ladders start / In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”

In die laaste van die drie gedigte, Politics, beskryf Yeats ‘n patetiese ou man wat smag na die arms van ‘n jonger vrou. Volgens The Atlantic se berig, die volgende: “This wasn’t far from the truth: Yeats spent his last decade carrying on with women half his age, and even had a vasectomy-like operation to improve his sexual ‘vigor’. “ Ook Yeats se vrou se skrywe aan hom word aangehaal:  “’When you are dead, people will talk about your love affairs,’ wrote Yeats’s much-younger wife, George, in a letter to her husband, ‘but I shall say nothing, for I will remember how proud you were.’”

Volgens JennieRothenberg Girtz, beriggewer by The Atlantic, het die Indiese filosofie van Vendata ‘n bepalende invloed op Yeats se lewens- en wêreldbeskouing gehad in sy laaste jare. Volgens die Vendata is die heelal ‘n illuasie en die mens gefragmenteerd. Sy haal Yeats aan wat Vendata soos volg in die vertaling van die Mandukya Upanishad beskryf het:

Whereas we are fragmentary, forgetting, remembering, sleeping, waking, spread out into past, present, future, permitting to our leg, to our finger, to our intestines, partly or completely separate consciousnesses, it is the ‘unbroken consciousness of the Self,’ the Self that never sleeps, that is never divided, but even when our thought transforms it, it is still the same.

Haar eie slotsom is soos volg: “At the end of his life, Yeats seemed to be loosening his grip on that small, fragmentary self. The three Atlantic poems show him shedding the very last vestiges of his pride and dignity—his literary greatness, his sexual magnetism—everything that made him William Butler Yeats. As W.H. Auden put it, after his friend and mentor was buried in the ground: “Let the Irish vessel lie / Emptied of its poetry.”

By wyse van kopknik en huldeblyk aan een van die gootste digters wat ooit geleef het, plaas ek hieronder WH Auden se gedig oor sy gestorwe vriend en leermeester.


In Memory of W. B. Yeats



He disappeared in the dead of winter:

The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,

And snow disfigured the public statues;

The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.

What instruments we have agree

The day of his death was a dark cold day.


Far from his illness

The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,

The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;

By mourning tongues

The death of the poet was kept from his poems.


But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,

An afternoon of nurses and rumours;

The provinces of his body revolted,

The squares of his mind were empty,

Silence invaded the suburbs,

The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.


Now he is scattered among a hundred cities

And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,

To find his happiness in another kind of wood

And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.

The words of a dead man

Are modified in the guts of the living.


But in the importance and noise of to-morrow

When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,

And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,

And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,

A few thousand will think of this day

As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.


What instruments we have agree

The day of his death was a dark cold day.



     You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:

     The parish of rich women, physical decay,

     Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.

     Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,

     For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives

     In the valley of its making where executives

     Would never want to tamper, flows on south

     From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,

     Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,

     A way of happening, a mouth.




          Earth, receive an honoured guest:

          William Yeats is laid to rest.

          Let the Irish vessel lie

          Emptied of its poetry.


          In the nightmare of the dark

          All the dogs of Europe bark,

          And the living nations wait,

          Each sequestered in its hate;


          Intellectual disgrace

          Stares from every human face,

          And the seas of pity lie

          Locked and frozen in each eye.


          Follow, poet, follow right

          To the bottom of the night,

          With your unconstraining voice

          Still persuade us to rejoice;


          With the farming of a verse

          Make a vineyard of the curse,

          Sing of human unsuccess

          In a rapture of distress;


          In the deserts of the heart

          Let the healing fountain start,

          In the prison of his days

          Teach the free man how to praise.


(c) W.H. Auden (Uit: Another Time, 1940: Random House. Copyright



Louis Esterhuizen. Iets oor musiek, liriek en poësie

Thursday, September 26th, 2013


Dat daar die afgelope jare ‘n steeds nouerwordende band tussen poësie en musiek bestaan, is ‘n gegewe. En ‘n goeie voorbeeld hiervan is een van my gunsteling musiekgroepe uit die 1980s, naamlik die Ierse groep The Waterboys, met die legendariese Mike Scott (foto) as kreatiewe dryfstang in hul enjin. Nie net was Scott se eie lirieke besonder poëties nie, met “Old England” as een van my gunstelinge, maar hy het ook van meet af gedigte van William Butler Yeats by hul musiek betrek. So was daar  “The Stolen Child” (op die album Fisherman’s Blues, 1988) en “Love and Death” (op die album Dream Harder, 1993).

Met hul mees onlangse album het Scott egter nou dié skatpligtigheid tot sy ekstreme geneem: ál twintig liedjies op An Appointment with Mr. Yeats is gebaseer op gedigte van W.B. Yeats; daarom dat ‘n onderhoud wat met Mike Scott gevoer is deur Gene Myers op my aandag getrek het. (Terloops, dié onderhoud is gevoer in die aanloop na die Bergen Musiekfees wat môre plaasvind en waarby The Waterboys betrokke is.)

William Butler Yeats

Op die vraag oor sy fassinasie met die groot Ierse digter, het Scott soos volg geantwoord: “My mum, who is a college lecturer, used to talk about him in hushed tones. So I grew up with the idea of Yeats as the great master poet. I read his poetry in my teens and liked it but didn’t understand it. Came back to it in my 20s when I was more ready for him. As for my connection – well, I like his power, the archetypal authority he assumes when he writes, his understanding of subtler worlds, of human processes. And I share his interests – love, mythology, the mystic, Ireland, etc.”

Oor die verwantskap tussen poësie en musiek het Scott die volgende te sê gehad: “I think poetry works with music in two ways: 1) as recitation, sympathetically read over an appropriate musical soundtrack. It’s quite an art, getting it right. And 2) as the setting of poem sung to music as a melody, which is also an art and in most cases requires of the poem that it rhyme and scan like a song lyric […] I experience them in their pure forms quite differently. Poetry acts on my mind first as a route to emotion and spirit. Music works on the emotion and spirit first and needn’t even engage the mind.”

Nou ja, toe. Vir jou leesplesier volg die liriek van “Old England” hieronder.


Old England


Man looks up on a yellow sky
And the rain turns to rust in his eye
Rumours of his health are lies
Old England is dying
His clothes are a dirty shade of blue
And his ancient shoes worn through
He steals from me and he lies to you
Old England is dying
Still he sings an empire song
Still he keeps his navy strong
And he sticks his flag where it I’ll belongs
Old England is dying
You’re asking what makes me sigh now
What it is makes me shudder so well
I just freeze in the wind and I’m
Numb from the pummelin of the snow
That falls from high in yellow skies
Down on where the well loved flag of
England flies
Where homes are warm and mothers sigh
Where comedians laugh and babies cry
Where criminals are televised politicians
Journalists are dignified and everyone is
And children stare with Heroin eyes
Old England!
Evening has fallen
The swans are singing
The last of sunday’s bells is ringing
The wind in the trees is sighing
And old England is dying


© The Waterboys



Brittanje se gunstelingdigters

Monday, October 12th, 2009
TS Eliot

TS Eliot

Na ‘n maandelange veldtog en 18,000 stemme om die mees gewilde digter in die Britse digkuns te bepaal, het die BBC verlede Donderdag tydens hul Nasionale Gedigtedag bekend gemaak dat TS Eliot die meeste stemme gekry het. Hy word gevolg deur John Donne, Benjamin Zephaniah (‘n rastadigter van Birmingam), Wilfred Owen, Philip Larkin, William Blake, WB Yeats, John Betjeman, John Keats en Dylan Thomas. Opvallende name wat ontbreek in dié lys van gunstelingdigters is uiteraard eietydse digters oos Seamus Heaney en Carol Ann Duffy (tans poet laureate); asook immergewilde digters soos Sylvia Path, Ted Hughes en WH Auden.

Die 3de plek wat Benjamin Zephaniah inneem, kom nogals vreemd voor aangesien die hele fenomeen van rastafariërs met hul gepaardgaande rap poetry a la Linton Kwesi Johnson in ons eie digkuns maar skaars is … Waarskynlik is die enigste voorbeeld wat ons hiervan het, die enigmatiese Jitsvinger (Quintin Goliath) uit die Kaapse Vlakte en Yabadaka Shamah, wie se verse in My ousie is ‘n blom (2006: Snailpress, saamgestel deur Charl-Pierre Naudé) opgeneem is. (Toegegee, die verse in die bloemlesing is waarskynlik nie die suiwerste voorbeeld van Yabadaka se rasta-gerigtheid nie, maar sy impromptu optrede tydens die Versindaba van daardie jaar was beslis onverdunde rap.) Aan die Engelse kant van die draad is daar natuurlik meer voorbeelde, met Lesego Rampolokeng as die onbetwiste kroonprins van die spoegpraters; soos Andries Bezuidenhout en ander wat by die onlangse Bekgeveg by WITS betrokke was, waarskynlik sou agtergekom het. Dié man is in ‘n klas van sy eie, vermoed ek. Veral wanneer hy musiek met sy voordrag begin kombineer …

Nietemin, as voorbeeld van Benjamin Zephaniah se digkuns volg daar ‘n vers, Dis poetry, heelonder. Maar is dit?! Persoonlik wil ‘n mens amper binnebeks grom: Dis g’n poetry. Of wat praat ek nou?!


Ten slotte – nuwe toevoegings sedert Vrydag op die webblad is Carl-Pierre Naudé se inskrywing wat hy in reaksie op Neville Alexander en Gerrit Brand se deelname aan die pasafgelope Roots-kunstefees geplaas het; ook Andries Bezuidenhout se entoesiastiese vertelling van hoe plesierig Oopmond inderdaad was terwyl Johann Lodewyk Marais wat weer vra of die Afrikaanse digkuns dalk te moeilik is.

Mmm, lekker lees en geniet die week wat op hande is …

Mooi bly.


Dis poetry

Dis poetry is like a riddim dat drops
De tongue fires a riddim dat shoots like shots
Dis poetry is designed fe rantin
Dance hall style, big mouth chanting,
Dis poetry nar put yu to sleep
Preaching follow me
Like yu is blind sheep,
Dis poetry is not Party Political
Not designed fe dose who are critical.
Dis poetry is wid me when I gu to me bed
It gets into me dreadlocks
It lingers around me head
Dis poetry goes wid me as I pedal me bike
I’ve tried Shakespeare, respect due dere
But did is de stuff I like.

Dis poetry is not afraid of going ina book
Still dis poetry need ears fe hear an eyes fe hav a look
Dis poetry is Verbal Riddim, no big words involved
An if I hav a problem de riddim gets it solved,
Iove tried to be more romantic, it does nu good for me
So I tek a Reggae Riddim an build me poetry,
I could try be more personal
But you’ve heard it all before,
Pages of written words not needed
Brain has many words in store,
Yu could call dis poetry Dub Ranting
De tongue plays a beat
De body starts skanking,
Dis poetry is quick an childish
Dis poetry is fe de wise an foolish,
Anybody can do it fe free,
Dis poetry is fe yu an me,
Don’t stretch yu imagination
Dis poetry is fe de good of de Nation,
In de morning
I chant
In de night
I chant
In de darkness
An under de spotlight,
I pass thru University
I pass thru Sociology
An den I got a dread degree
In Dreadfull Ghettology.

Dis poetry stays wid me when I run or walk
An when I am talking to meself in poetry I talk,
Dis poetry is wid me,
Below me an above,
Dis poetry’s from inside me
It goes to yu

(c) Benjamin Zephaniah


Gebreide gedig vir eeufeesviering

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
Wollerige vers

Wollerige vers

Meer as 800 vrywilligers is tans besig om vir die Britse Poetry Society se eeufeesvieringe ‘n reusagtige gedig te brei. Elkeen van die vrywilligers se taak is om ‘n bepaalde letter van die alfabet op ‘n vierkant van 12″ by 12″ te brei. “A poem is often a small thing that packs a larger punch than its scale suggests – it’s not big and shouty. The idea of a poem with scale is interesting – it’s saying look how big, how important this poem is, and how many people’s lives it’s reached,” het Judith Palmer, direkteur van die Poetry Sociey, aan The Guardian se verslaggewer gesê en bygevoeg dat brei eintlik in vele opsigte met die maak van ‘n gedig ooreenstem: “With poetry and with knitting, you work line by line, and if something goes wrong you have to unravel it.”

Die voltooide gedig sal in Oktober, tydens die Society se feesvieringe, onthul word. Presies watter gedig dit gaan wees, is egter tot dan ‘n geheim. Uiteraard is daar heelwat spekulasie oor watter gedig dit is waaraan gebrei word: Jo Shapcott, Seamus Heaney en Emily Dickinson het immers almal gedigte oor brei geskryf. Ook Auden, Eliot, Verlaine en Betjeman word genoem, maar dit wil tog voorkom asof die meeste spekulante dit eens is dat die gedig wat in Oktober onthul gaan word, WB Yeats se “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” sal wees, met daardie onvergeetlike slotreëls: “I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

Nou ja, toe. Net die tyd sal leer of dit dié lieflike vers deur een van die klassieke meesters sal wees, of dalk Milton se “Paradise Lost”, maar vir jou leesplesier vanoggend, ‘n toepaslike vers deur die Walliese digter Gwyneth Lewis. Lekker lees.

En hou maar vandag die stekies eweredig by mekaar op die breipen, hoor.

Mooi bly.





The whole thing starts with a single knot
and needles. A word and pen. Tie a loop
in nothing. Look at it. Cast on, repeat

the procedure till you have a line
that you can work with.
It’s a pattern made of relation alone,

my patience, my rhythm, till empty bights
create a fabric that can be worn,
if you’re lucky and practised. It’s never too late

to pick up dropped stitches, each hole a clue
to something that might be bothering you,
though I link mine with ribbons and pretend

I meant them to happen. I make a net
of meaning that I carry round
portable, to work on sound

in trains and terrible waiting rooms.
It’s thought in action. It redeems
odd corners of disposable time,

making them fashion. It’s the kind of work
that keeps you together. The neck’s too tight,
but tell me honestly: How do I look?


© Gwyneth Lewis