Sunday, February 6, 2011

Old Fishermen

The herring are not in the tides as they were of old;
My sorrow for many a creak gave the creel in the cart
That carried the take to Sligo town to be sold
When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

William Butler Yeats,
The Meditation of the Old Fisherman


  1. Do you think all old fishermen have been seeing the stock declining since W.B.Y. Sarah? I carried a good friend's mother to her grave in a wicker coffin once - that gave out many a creak too. X (The word verification for this: 'carpe' - do the mean a fish, or do they mean Carpe Deum?)

  2. Sligo is on Ireland's northern Atlantic coast, a smallish town under the shadow of the famously imposing Ben Bulben, and home to Lissadel House where Yeats holidayed as a boy and eventually decided to be buried. His epitath reads. . .

    Cast a cold eye on life,
    On death.
    Horseman, pass by!

    These day's Ireland's Atlantic fishing capital is up the road in Donegal, leaving Sligo to the new wave of cold water surfers and the constrant stream of old school poem hunters.

  3. Yates believed in the occult. He went to seances, wrote poetry and plays, fell in love but failed miserably at its consumation, yet kept that muse his whole life. He married lovelessly, spent his entire career searching for meaning and value, looked for clues in history, thought it existed in beauty, created it himself in so many verses. A priviliged, moneyed life, peopled by romantics and revolutionaries, he moved amongst the elite, was revered in literary circles, his work summoned to this day by people all over the English speaking world, who find expression in what he was able to say. Yet he chose a brutal epitath to define his days alive. Substance and doing amount to zero in the end. His message? Without love there is nothing.

  4. Ahh thankyou Ciaran, and Tom.
    Just got back to A WineDark Sea after six days of shack building.

    Yes, I think they have Tom, but fish are as fickle as birds and who knows their mysterious ways, truly?
    Technology has changed all that I suppose ...

    Funny how some moneyed sorts have misplaced their callings. Perhaps Yeats could have been an Old Salt in another life.

  5. And thanks for explaining the creak in the creel Tom.