Helen Vendler, whose book Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form was released recently by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, speaks on Yeats's eight-part sequence Vacillation, composed in 1931-32 and appearing in The Winding Stair (1933). In it, vacillating between the "staring fury" of visionary fire and the "blind lush leaf" of sensuous existence, between "aimless joy" and the weight of remorse, Yeats adjures himself to begin the preparation for his death by outlining the contraries that have occupied his imagination in life. He balances the claims of the soul against the claims of the heart, secular conquest against temporal transience, earthly bloodshed against the ideal beauty of the "gaudy moon," and "unchristened" Homer against the Catholic theologian Baron Friedrich Von Hügel (author of The Mystical Element of Religion). Prof. Vendler considers several perplexing issues raised by Vacillation, speculating on Yeats's choice of various verse-forms for the eight parts of the sequence, the order in which the parts are arranged, and the poet's "vacillation" here between the personal "I" and impersonal forms of utterance. Like Under Ben Bulben and The Man and the Echo (both1938), Vacillation is one of Yeats's late manifestos, and she asks to what degree this "preparation for his death" is consistent with the ones composed five years later. At the National Arts Club, free. To attend 8 p.m. dinner with Prof. Vendler, send your check for $49, made out to the WB Yeats Society of NY, to be in our mailbox at the club by October 1.
Added by wlinden on September 25, 2008