kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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A Coat - a Poetry Friday post

Today's selection is a short poem by William Butler Yeats. It is only 10 short lines, and it serves as an announcement of sort on Yeats's part, a throwing down of a gauntlet, a slap at imitators who, inspired by his use of myth in early poems, had started weaving their own metaphysical verse. It is also an announcement of a shift in the way he thought about and approached his poetry. First the poem, then the chatter.

A Coat
by William Butler Yeats

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.

It has it's own rhyme scheme: ABBACDCCDC' (Between you and me, I couldn't decide whether "naked" was slant rhyme to the "it"s, or was an anomaly that should've earned an E designation. But I lean towards the former interpretation, so I give it a C'.) And it is written in accentual verse, which is actually very interesting when analyzed. The first and eighth linese alone contain three accented syllables (i MADE my SONG a COAT and SONG, LET them TAKE it). The rest of the lines have only two accented syllables (e.g., COVered with emBROIDeries, or SONG, let them TAKE it). Both lines contain the word "song", which is one thing that unifies them. But whereas the first line reads like an announcement to the world, the eighth line ("Song, let them take it") is actually addressed to the poet's art or creation (and is actually a bit of personification).

I read this as Yeats talking about his craft: how he'd wrapped his poems in layers containing bits of ancient myths, and how others copied him, pretending the idea was their own. (He sounds a bit pissed, too, don't you think?) The last three lines are the real announcement here, nevermind that the first line is the one addressed to the world:

Song, let them take it
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.

Yeats washes his hands of the imitators and pretenders, at the same time announcing a shift in poetic style to a plainer, more direct manner of communicating. And in one of those beautiful moments, form meets function: Here in a stripped-down, straightforward poem (albeit one that uses metaphor) is an announcement of intention to write in a stripped-down, more straightforward manner. *happy sigh*

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Tags: analysis of poems, poetry, poetry friday, yeats

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