All Things Uncomely and Broken

For the title of my blog, I decided to use the first line of W.B. Yeats’ 1892 poem, The Lover Tells Of The Rose In His Heart, quoted in full below.  It’s long been a favorite of mine. When we were with my father in County Galway about twenty years ago, my wife and I bought a lovely print of this poem, rendered in an appealing Irish uncial with illuminated lettering.  It is my hope to upload an image of it soon.  It’s featured above.

While I have always admired Yeats’ lyricism, I cannot say I share his sentiment in this poem, or at least not entirely.  Sure, there is something distressing about what is aesthetically unappealing.  Who doesn’t like a rose-garden better than, say, a strip mall?  The poet’s desire to have a world fashioned perfectly for his love is deeply moving.  But, then again, the yearning to have everything “re-made” strikes me as a tad fascist, and the phrase “like a casket of gold” is sort of morbid.

So, if I have problems with the poem, why name my blog for it?  Mostly, I guess, because of the way the words sound.  But in addition, it is because I imagine this blog will be made up of observations mostly disjointed in nature, not seamless and coherent.  In The Valley of Fear, Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes dismiss a theory because it fails to account for “the nasty, angular, uncompromising bits which won’t slip into their places.”  That almost became the name of the blog—“Nasty, Angular, Uncompromising Bits”—but I don’t have a nice print of that quotation all done up in fancy calligraphy.

The Lover Tells Of The Rose In His Heart

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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6 Responses to All Things Uncomely and Broken

  1. William Key Ransone says:

    Ah, I just found the answer to my question… Still very taken with it all, even (and especially) not knowing the original text. Big Dante/Virgila (and Homer, poeta sovrano) fan, and came upon your blog looking up latin vocabulary in Boethius : your two or three phrases about the poem that ends book I just perfect, limpid and clear and revelatory …

    • I’m so glad you like those remarks. I’ve found Boethius quite remarkable, and enjoyed reading him with students this past term. I’ve asked them to illustrate the Rota Fortunae, and will post some of their images soon. Thanks for reading my blog, and for being kind in your comments. Blogging is an indulgence, I realize, but one I enjoy.

  2. William McKeachie says:

    Having been “strangely warmed” by your observations about the Rebel’s Rest fire, I have become a new (albeit neo-Luddite) habitué of your splendid blog. When I studied Yeats with Andrew Lytle in the ’60s, “The Lover tells of the Rose” was one of his and my favorites, along with “To a Friend whose work has come to nothing” (I think that’s the title). It’s my own contention, whatever else may or may not be aptly contended about Yeats’s religious bent, that both poems reflect, at whatever degree of remove, an implicitly biblical world-view, as much so as Ecclesiastes and Dante and Richard Tillinghast’s “Sewanee in Ruins” — of which a reading by Richard himself should be scheduled ASAP in the ‘shell’ of RR, before the (I trust) yearned-for restoration gets under way (or perhaps as part of the fund-raising effort).

    • William–Thanks so much for your kind words on this post and the other on Rebel’s Rest. I’m glad you like what I’ve got here on the blog. You’ll be pleased to know that Richard Tillinghast’s book of Sewanee Poems will be coming out in paperback next moth for use in the freshman Finding Your Place course which I teach in. He’s reading as well on August 16th, if you find yourself in this part of the world. Concerning Yeats, he is an old favorite that I go back to again and again–the phrase “uncomely and broken” came to me when I wrote the very first post here, the eulogy for my brother, about two years ago. Love your comments, please keep sharing. Yours, CMcD

  3. L. Elaine Miller says:

    Hello Chris. Such a brief post to have so captured my attention. Long ago at university Yeats was one of the poets who drew me in, all starry-eyed, every now and then. The difference is that now I’m just as interested in what people make of works as I am in the works themselves.

    Your other post of the same day almost eight years ago, about Mark, is deeply moving.

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