Yeats and Sargent are Dead

"Let the Irish vessel lie

Emptied of its poetry."

--w.h. auden, after his friend Yeats was buried

Charcoal portrait of the poet W.B. Yeats, by John Singer Sargent

When I see Sargent's charcoal portrait of Yeats, I am struck with a strange sadness.  Both men are dead.  They died long before I was born.  No more poems.  No more paintings.  Forever.

No amount of yearning could ever allow me to reach my hand through the flimsy curtains of time, so that I might touch Yeats's smooth, youthful brow, or run my fingers down his long, beautiful neck.  I'll never stand behind John Singer Sargent, watching him paint, his face radiant with concentration as he works.  He probably wouldn't even notice me anyway, as I hover anxiously at his elbow, hoping to learn something from the wild sweeping movements of his paintbrush.

I think I'm supposed to write something beautiful, about how we really only have the present, these precious moments of life, and how we should be mindful of them, and use them well.  And how it's such a good thing to leave paintings and poetry behind you for other people to appreciate, to help ease their own slow journeys to the grave.

But I'm not really feeling like that this morning.  I'm just sad.  I'm sad people have to die.

"Street in Venice" an oil painting by John Singer Sargent

She sings as the moon sings:

'I am I, am I;

The greater grows my light

The further that I fly.'

All creation shivers

With that sweet cry.

--Yeats (excerpt from "He and She")

Further Reading:

A Love Poem for Kyle Staver (this blog post has a Yeats poem, "Leda and the Swan")

Glutton Before Death (my poem about death)

Immortality by Milan Kundera