Sunday, June 2, 2013

Preparing for the Wilderness

I had almost forgotten how much I loved William Butler Yeats until Laura brought me a copy of The Tower from her trip to Santa Fe. She'd found a quaint little bookstore practically giving books away, and this one was my favorite she brought me. Normally, when I turn to nature poetry I head for my boy Mathew Arnold, or Thoreau's Walden.  I rose early this morning and sat on the porch with my coffee and read half of the book before anyone else had stirred.

Yeats often waxed poetic about streams and the woods and of the extraordinary flora and fauna residing within. He wrote of fly fishing several times in his works, which I can't help but dig because it's proof positive that even 100 years ago, poets/writers were trout-heads too.

He also laments on about the cruelty of growing old and frail, and feeling he losing grip on the things he loves (wooing a young lover, hiking the wilderness, wading the stream) - but also frequently on his fading faculties -- a terrible/inevitable reality that lies in wait for any of us who suffer through this life long enough to die old.

I suppose Yeats helped me spend my morning realizing how lucky I am to only have a couple of (ever-worsening) problems with my feet, how lucky I am to have Laura, how lucky I am to have Wesley and Savannah still believe I am some superhuman, hybridized, cross-pollinated, genetically-altered version of Superman, Yoda and Chevy Chase.

Anyways, here are a couple of my favorite "Yeats Greats." If you like what I like, you'll like these as well. And you'll also notice the Cormac McCarthy connection.


THE SONG OF WANDERING AENGUS

by W. B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.



SAILING TO BYZANTIUM
by W. B. Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

About Mac

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I am W. Chad McPhail. I'm an outdoor/travel writer, book author, former English teacher, and Amarillo native. 

I spend my spare time traipsing around the mountains and streams of the southwest in search of wild trout with my family, friends, various freeloaders, and other flotsam and jetsan. I used to teach English & Creative Writing. These days I am a Right of Way field agent with Coates Field Service, representing Sharyland Utilities during the construction of a 345 megawatt transmission line from Hereford to Panhandle, Texas. I love exploring the outdoors, fly fishing, backpacking, camping, hiking, kayaking, and yes, writing outdoor and travel books and pieces. I am a field writer of flyfishing, backpacking, camping, and kayaking articles for Suite101.com. I have written many articles for magazines such as Southwest Fly Fishing, Texas Fish & Game, Rocky Mountain Game & Fish, ESPN.com, and more. I have co-penned three books with fishing buddy Mark D. Williams; Colorado Flyfishing: Where to Eat Sleep Fish, 49 Trout Streams of Southern Colorado, and An Introduction to Fly Fishing for Trout.