Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Autobiography of W.B. Yeats

I recently finished reading the autobiography of one of my favorite poets, William Butler Yeats. An intriguing look into the mind of a man torn between his head and his heart, I couldn’t help from feeling a bit sorry for him. He constantly wanted to believe in the tender emotions of the heart, but also constantly questioned it with a cold rationality.

I was struck by a passage about a mountain near his home called Knocknarea (pronounced Nok-na-ray). I’ve climbed this mountain myself (my wife and I visited it on our honeymoon), and have felt its magical presence – Queen Maeve is reputed to be buried atop an ancient cairn on its summit. Anyhow, one night Yeats sees a light in the distance climbing the mountain and times its ascent at five minutes – knowing no human could scale the heights that quickly as it takes the better part of an hour to climb the mountain. This is in the 19th century, so what did he see? He runs after the light, trying to discover what it is, hoping in his heart that it has something to do with the fairies or the supernatural, yet deeply doubting it at the same time and figuring it must have some rational explanation.

He never finds out what it was, but the incident clearly sticks out in his mind ever afterward. What do you think it might have been? And how to you balance the beliefs of your heart with the rationality of your mind in everyday life? It’s no small question, that’s for sure.