Yeats – The Song of Wandering Aengus (1899)

From the The Wind Among the Reeds (1899), this poem (roughly iambic tetrameter/ballad/loosely rhymed) continues Yeats obsession with Irish mythology, but also combines it with Greek myth and the occult symbolism drawn from Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. Yeats rewrites the myth of Aegnus by 1. making the hero subject to the passing of time (“Though I am old with wandering”) 2. transforming the object of desire into a trout rather than a swan or other bird (“I dropped the berry in the stream / And caught a little silver trout”) 3. rendering the search interminable (“til time and times are done”) but converts the process of searching–which is associated with writing itself (“cut and peeled a hazel wand”)–into the pleasure itself. The final stanza illustrates the lopsided nature of the imaginative fantasy:

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck til time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

In short, the “glimmering” (word gets repeated throughout early work, cf. “Lake Isle of Innisfree”) girl’s absence is the condition of poetic creation. Talk about in terms of Lacan. Achieving the obscure object of desire would be accompanied by a knowledge that would bring together the moon and the sun, which represent the creative and rational faculties. Also, it images a world in which fish do not need to  be gathered for nutritive functions–rather apples and grow and, when eaten (perhaps before?), immediately turn into literary symbols–the fantasy of a world that lies before or after the demands of self-preservation.

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