A Drinking Song - William Butler Yeats
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
What's to say? As simple as it gets, really, Yeats creates a somewhat funny and somewhat poignant image here, of a lover looking at his or her other, taking a sip of wine, holding the object of their love in the eye, and sighing, presumably for want of love.
All I can really take from this is a sense of rueful regret at falling in love. Raise a glass, sigh while falling in love, and hope you can realize it before you're old and dead. Alternatively, I suppose it could be a sigh along the lines of "oh, you're the one I fell in love with" but I don't get that feeling. Still, despite the sigh, I find a warm sense of humor in this poem. After all, sighs can be of relief, happiness, anything. It could be someone taking comfort in catching their lover's eye.
He met actress and Irish revolutionary, Maud Gonne (1866-1953), in 1889 and she would become a major part of Yeats’ life. When she married another, Major John MacBride, in 1903, Yeats was incited to write No Second Troy. Later, MacBride and Gonne separated and MacBride was executed by the British during the Irish uprising in 1916. Gonne had previously turned down several proposal by Yeats. In fact, he proposed to her again in 1916 and she declined. Hence, No Second Troy.
After 1896, Yeats reformed the Irish Literary Society and in Dublin, the National Literary Society in an attempt to promote the New Irish Library. In the following year, he founded the Irish Literary Theatre with Lady Gregory and Isabella Augusta. He would work as the theatre’s director for the remainder of his life which included the plays he had written.
In 1917, he purchased Thoor Ballyle which was a stone tower he restored. It became his summer home. In this same year, he married Georgie Hyde-Lee with whom he shared a son and daughter. It was through Ezra that he had met his wife who had practiced automatic writing which was the act of scripting out on paper subconscious thought or that which is communicated through a medium. Nobody really knows how "automatic" his wife's writing was and perhaps to alleviate Yeats' discontent, the pen was put to the paper displaying communications in such a manner to relieve whatever was ailing him. Whatever the case, he had written in a letter how happy he was and that maybe his past rejections with women was a result, in part, because he was supposed to marrie Georgie. All in all, it's interesting to read about.
Yeats had a very interesting life and this material is really a brief synopsis of his world, including his personal life. He almost had an obsession about the spiritual world and another popular poem of his is The Second Coming (published 1921) which was written after World War I and depicts what is to come. He had always been intrigued by the occult because he was always looking for answers. Yeats definitely had his view on the human experience as so many of us do. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
Towards the end of Yeats’ life, The Oxford Book of Verse was published in 1936; New Poems in 1938 and he worked on A Vision. Yeats died in 1939 in Menton, France. His poem, Under Ben Buiben, reflects language that appears, in part, on his gravestone.
No marble, no conventional phrase; On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut: Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman; pass by!