what if an excess of love… (a quote for discussion)

I just read Starhawk's letter from the Republican National Convention protests…the one for the first.   It's of course avaliable on her website, but both her site and the letter are avaliable on the orange satan:


I was inspired by the diary to go look up the poem…which I'd read a long time ago, but was much too young for (even though I last read it only a couple years ago).  As society changes, and I think about the discussion with NLinSP on here the other day, about radicalization and violence…this resonated. 


For your consideration (and with apologies to Jay for hijacking his nifty idea), Yeat's famous poem about the Easter Uprising of 1916.   A post office was captured; sixteen were hung.

Easter 1916 

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it
Where long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call.
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

WB Yeats


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    • jessical on September 5, 2008 at 6:00 am

    …and to Jay, who hopefully won’t mind a rogue QFD.

  1. QFD “Raw”….

    Hmmmm. Timely poetic introduction.

  2. I don’t want to hi-jack a discussion about this poem, but its late and I need to get to bed.

    I did want to tell you that last night I had dinner with a young (to me anyway – he’s 30 something) friend who describes himself as an “almost anarchist.”

    He didn’t participate in the protests or the violence – just got in town – but sympathizes with those who did. And he helped me understand it all more from his/their point of view.

    I don’t think I can capture it all now, or how my thinking has changed. But I’m much more sympathetic and its a work in process.

    • jessical on September 5, 2008 at 7:15 am

    …has fallen between the deed of my hand and the hope of my heart, so I’m fadin’.  Will try to be on a few more, then I must come away, to bed.

    • jessical on September 5, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    …in the event anyone looks at my comment thread, I’m tacking on this goodbye for now comment so anyone who wonders will know I’m ok (and still think DD is great!).  I have to deal with real world stuff and — questions of whether I really bring anything to these fora aside — blogging is an all too welcome distraction from my stuff.  I might have time to read and rec a few things, but right now I’m just not sure.

    Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again…

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