it was a good week (well, 2 weeks–sorry) filled with MV reader cameos. I spent a good chunk of Friday and Saturday talking about William Butler Yeats, for reasons not involving poetry.
Yeats, as we may have discussed a time or two here, was a kook. A serious kook. He was an immensely talented person with a broad range of interests, which he pursued in various states of intensity over a long life. And one of his interests was the occult. We all have the internet machine now, so you can read up all you want to on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, its founder, MacGregor Mathers, and Yeats’ eventual disputes with Mathers. Yeats’ great love and Irish nationalist, Maud Gonne, was a member. So was Bram Stoker. The order believed in reincarnation, space-time travel, seances, spells, and other kooky stuff. I’m sorry for using the word kooky but it’s hard to write about this kind of thing without being slightly derisive. I mean come on: They used egyptian symbols, greek gods, the imagery of the cross, latin incantations, and wore hoods and robes. And it’s hard to not laugh out loud when you learn that some bored rich fools still do this crap. But I’m not here to make fun of crap. I’m here to share crappy poetry with you.
So I found a list of former members who were writers, and of course some were better known than others. Still, a decent sampling of Irish, Welsh, English, and American playwrights, poets, novelists, and “historians” have given their permission to wikipedia to list them as one-time members. I mean, I assume wikipedia has their permission, because of course they could object posthumously if they weren’t OK with that.
Among the luminaries was an American singer named Anna Dunphy, who was raised in New York and Cincinnati. She married a rich doctor with a European hereditary title, and so of course even after his death called herself Comtesse Anna de Bremont. She moved to London and in 1888 joined the Order of the Golden Dawn. She also began publishing poems, travel narratives, celebrity biographies (one of Wilde’s wife Constance, for example, also an occultist), and music criticism. My favorite title I found was called “Love Letters in Verse to a Young Musician,” dedicated to pianist Thuel Burnham. I found 3 short pieces to represent her style. The first I like because I got to experience live music 3 times in a great music city last week, so I am completely down with her take on Apollo’s lyre. The second because I don’t know what it means unless it means exactly what it means, in which case it is gross. And the last because it about explains the depth of thinking that goes into this mystical claptrap. To paraphrase Whitman, Do I offend? So I offend. Have a good week! -ed.
Apollo’s lute hath never sweeter sound
Than those rich tones that hold our senses bound.
When in his witching rhapsody of touch
He wraps our souls with extasy around.
Sweet is the kiss of life’s fulfilled desire,
And sweet the kiss that fuels passion’s fire;
But more supremely sweet the last chaste kiss
When two souls meeting on Love’s lips expire!
I send my thoughts in waving links of light,
Across the town to chain thine inner sight,
Within the spell that binds us soul to soul
And makes us One thro’ distance of the night.