The Folly of Being Comforted by W.B. Yeats
performed by Bob Geldof
One that is ever kind said yesterday:
‘Your well-belovèd's hair has threads of grey,
And little shadows come about her eyes;
Time can but make it easier to be wise
Though now it seems impossible, and so
All that you need is patience.’
Heart cries, ‘No,
I have not a crumb of comfort, not a grain.
Time can but make her beauty over again:
Because of that great nobleness of hers
The fire that stirs about her, when she stirs,
Burns but more clearly. O she had not these ways
When all the wild summer was in her gaze.’
O heart! O heart! if she'd but turn her head,
You'd know the folly of being comforted.
Interpretation by Kate Griffin
If Gok Wan had been born in Dublin in 1865 and had been a literary genius, this poem could have been written by him! For me it’s the recognition of a deep beauty within a woman, rather than the outward beauty that does fade with time. The true beauty continues to grow or develop and the passion continues, shown through the fiery imagery in the second stanza, ‘The fire that stirs about her … Burns but more clearly.”
This poem can be seen in a less positive light, that it is the poet who is “ever kind” trying to convince himself not to love this woman as she doesn’t love him in return. However, I’m going to stick with my more positive feelings regarding the meaning. That’s the joy of poetry; once written the interpretation is handed over to the reader and I would argue the poem is now mine: sorry Yeats!
Kate Griffin teaches English Language and Literature to Secondary School students at Langley Grammar School in Slough. She particularly enjoys teaching when her students make her think about something in a different way.