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On Being Asked for a War Poem -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem sent in by Suresh Ramasubramanian
(Poem #1040) On Being Asked for a War Poem
 I think it better that in times like these
 A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth
 We have no gift to set a statesman right;
 He has had enough of meddling who can please
 A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
 Or an old man upon a winter's night.
-- William Butler Yeats
Yeats wrote this little beauty on being asked to come up with "a war poem"
in 1919 - part of his anthology "The Wild Swans at Coole".

I _really_ like it.  Short, to the point, and wonderfully sarcastic.
There is no point at all to war, Yeats seems to say, and still less
point in writing long paeans to the glorious heroes of Britain,
conquerors of the Hun.  Beyond this, the poem speaks for itself, I think.

--srs

29 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Puneet Tanwar said...

lovely!

RichardGuy said...

The second line actually reads: A poet's mouth be silent.......

Richard K. Moore, Librarian
Orange County Department of Education
200 Kalmus Drive, B-1027
P.O. Box 9050
Costa Mesa
[broken link] http://www.ocde.k12.ca.us/infolit

Kate Dunning said...

Actually, the version above is a hybrid of two versions of the poem. "On
Being asked for a War Poem" was the title of a revised version. "A
Reason for Keeping Silent" was the original title. The original version
was printed in Edith Wharton's "The Book of the Homeless" (Boston: D.B.
Updike, Merrymount Press, 1916). The differences between the two
versions are intriguing and reveal a great deal about Yeats feelings
concerning propaganda, the role of the poet, etc.

ON BEING ASKED FOR A WAR POEM—William Butler Yeats

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesmen right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

A REASON FOR KEEPING SILENT—William Butler Yeats

I think it better that at times like these
We poets keep our mouths shut, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesmen right;
He’s had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

Kate Dunning
University at Buffalo

Cialis said...

All that I love
I fold over once
And once again
And keep in a box
Or a slit in a hollow post
Or in my shoe.
All that I love?
Why, yes, but for the moment --
And for all time, both.
Something that folds and keeps easy,
Son's note or Dad's one gaudy tie,
A roto picture of a queen,
A blue Indian shawl, even
A money bill.

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