Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 49: "From the Antigone" by WB Yeats

This is an interesting poem...It was short, but I also thought it was an interesting direction for Yeats. You do need to know the story of Antigone, however, before you read this poem. Antigone is the story of Oedipus' daughter who wants to bury one of her brothers because Creon, her uncle won't let her bury him properly with all the Greek rites. She goes out at night to bury her brother properly and gets caught...I will let you read the rest. But Yeats' poem "Antigone" discusses the constraints of women, who in Greek times as well as during Yeats' own times, were mainly around to take care of the home and bear children. There were some women who rebelled against this way, such as Antigone, but most free thinking women were punished or ostracized; and so, though many women had opinions, they hid them away and "lived lives of quiet desperation" (Thoreau). This poem discusses Antigone's feelings about being a woman, one who is able to do nothing as she watches her family, and her world, crumble about her.

Overcome -- O bitter sweetness,
Inhabitant of the soft cheek of a girl --
The rich man and his affairs,
The fat flocks and the fields' fatness,
Mariners, rough harvesters;
Overcome Gods upon Parnassus;

Overcome the Empyrean; hurl
Heaven and Earth out of their places,
That in the Same calamity
Brother and brother, friend and friend,
Family and family,
City and city may contend,
By that great glory driven wild.

Pray I will and sing I must,
And yet I weep -- Oedipus' child
Descends into the loveless dust.

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