November 10, 2003 by AK
Haspel & Moore vs. Yeats, W.B.
Aaron Haspel disposes of the Innisfree scald thus:
To take most of Yeats’s poetry seriously it is not necessary to believe in ghosts. It is, however, necessary to prefer aristocratic to democratic government, assertions to reasons, instinct to intellect, astrology to astronomy, and the mystical properties of sex to just about anything else. Even more than Blake, his poetry is preposterous because his ideas are preposterous.
Needless to say, a heated exchange ensued; many, myself among them, rushed to the defense of W.B., as if he truly required it. In truth, I meant to defend not Yeats but my ideas of poetry. I plan to add a few more remarks.
…Yeats looks like a Great Poet, with his piercing gaze, roman nose, and snowy hair. He was exceptionally jealous of his hair. He refers in the letters to the equally fine-maned Bertrand Russell as “bald-pated,” and in his poetry frequently employs bald men, as in The Scholars, as a symbol for intellect, which he despised. The reputations of Shelley and Whitman also profit from their looks.
Hmmm… Let’s see how things stand on this side of the Oder-Neisse. Gogol took great care of his waistcoats; Pushkin paid special attention to his nails. Both were hardly handsome, although Pushkin was unbelievably good at seduction. Both were great authors. Lermontov, whom Russian literary tradition ranks second in the poetry department, had rather unimpressive looks despite his Byronian pretenses. (Actually, it’s Byron who had pretenses; Lermontov was genuine.) On the other hand, Alexandr Blok was a remarkably handsome man; Mikhail Kuzmin looked like a Hellenistic Greek; Afanasy Fet had a rather imposing appearance, — all of them being excellent poets without doubt.
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