Monday, April 19, 2010

The Rag-and-Bone Shop of the Heart

I enjoyed reading the compilation of Yeats poem, and found in them a reoccurring theme of wishing for the past, but instead finding oneself in the weary present attempting to start over at life, at love, of trying to regain youth and innocence.
I found "The Circus Animals' Desertion" most consistent with what we have discussed this semester. To begin with, there is a "broken man" at the start of the poem, which immediately alerts us to the fact that something is unnatural, there must be something wrong if he is "broken." Secondly, the Circus is often associated with "freaks of nature," or creatures that don't fit into what we see as our reality. The people/animals/things in a circus are by nature, strange.

My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

I find it interesting that he groups women in the category of the strange and unknowable, even to the Lord who is supposed to know everything. These are creatures beyond the normal realm of reason. Yeats then goes off into a sort of dreamy, enchanted world that is a little bizarre.
The speaker's brokenness is accompanied by the image of "The Countess Cathleen" wants to give away her soul, (which is not natural), and this brings up the comparison between the body and the soul.
Then there is the "Fool" and the "Blind Man," who can both be considered outsiders who never quite fit in. The reference to Cuchulain (aka the "Irish Achilles") brings in his irrational strength that is otherworldly and superhuman if he is able to fight the "ungovernable sea." However, all heroes have a week spot. The speaker was enchanted by a dream, not reality, and when in the last stanza he finds himself back in the harshness of the real world full of broken objects.

At the end, he mourns all the work he had done in the past, the love he had built up, saying that his ladder is now gone, and his weary tone suggests he doesn't really feel up to creating a new ladder. The speaker says "I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart," which is to say that love's imperfection causes broken-heartedness. He cannot even stand up and climb, he is reduced to a supine position. This all refers back to the absurdness and irrationality we have seen so far.

1 comment:

  1. I have to offer a different interpretation of Yeats' poem, one that has less to do with the unnatural and strange. The way I interpreted the poem was basically this: Yeats in his old age is lamenting his inability to write the same type of lofty poetry about "faeries" and "the sea-rider Oisin" that he composed when he was younger. He wonders if he can no longer do anything but "enumerate old themes," or write about the same things he has already written about. But by the end of the poem, it seems as though Yeats is contented with his current state of affairs, musing that he might have placed too much emphasis on the "players and painted stage" in the past, and not focused enough on the basic subjects he was trying to depict. Now, he cannot and will not make use of his "ladder" to compose beautiful poetry, but rather must write simply and truthfully from the heart, the seat of all basic emotions. He must focus on all of the broken and worn out objects that surround and indeed help to shape our daily lives.