Yeats – The Song of Happy Shepherd (1889)

The opening poem of  Yeats’ first volume, Crossways, which was dedicated to A.E. with an epigraph from William Blake: “The stars are threshed, and the souls are threshed from their husks.” The poem calls attention to the insufficiency of the stars for guidance, and in their place recommends the use of words (“Words along are certain good” gets repeated), however cracked language may be. “Then nowise worship dusty deeds” is a call to leave beyond the mythology of “warring kings” who have for their glory now only “an idle word.” They may be old and dusty, but the present is threatened more violently:

The wandering of the earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.

Just an early call for the writing of poetry that is appropriate to the conditions of the present. Adopts the image of the shell only to call for the poet to speak into it rather than hold it up to the ear. Connect all this to the Blake epigram.



One response to “Yeats – The Song of Happy Shepherd (1889)

  1. Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much.

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