I’ve been reading through a book of poems by Yeats. So far, his work is marked by eclectic and contrasting elements. Many of his poems draw imagery from Irish mythology; the natural and supernatural worlds blur into something that is both yet not quite either. Other poems strike decidedly modern notes. This isn’t surprising since Yeats lived through the industrial revolution and died at the beginning of World War II.
“The Second Coming” is probably my favorite Yeats poem. (I discussed this poem on my other blog, The Voice of One). But I found another gem: “These Are the Clouds.” It begins, “These are the clouds about the fallen sun”. Yeats’s words are so tragic and visual I was immediately drawn in.
One definition of entropy is, “the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity.” Yeats goes on to describe something very similar. But Yeats is concerned with human entropy, not scientific:
The weak lay hand on what the strong has done, Till that be tumbled that was lifted high And discord follow upon unison, And all things at one common level lie.
Yeats ends the poem by repeating the first line; this emphasizes the pervading sense of decline and loss. Since Yeats speaks in general terms and without specific context, we are invited to apply this to human experience as a whole. It could be said that human history is the cycling of achievement, degradation, and collapse.
One thing I love about poetry is its ability to capture even grievous things in gorgeous ways. Yeats’s words show that there is beauty even in deep loss. This is one of the redeeming things about human experience.
“These Are the Clouds” is a short poem, and you can read it here. I hope that you’ll check it out!