Literary Shelf

Yeats: A Dialogue of Self and Soul

A Dialogue of Self and Soul by W.B. Yeats is one of those poems of the poet which tell of the spiritual progress as well as his grappling with the knowledge of the self and the indelible soul. The wisdom of the Vedas, the light of the Upanishads, the narrative of the Puranas together with Buddha and Buddhism, Platonic and Japanese, it is there in him. The poet thinks of samsara and the cause of sorrow as per Buddha and Buddhism. Adi Shankaracharya leaves him not. But what is predominant in him is the discourse of the self and the soul as enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita. The self and the soul in dialogue and the arriving of the understanding! What mesmerizes it is the extant of Japanese warfare lexicography.  

My soul, you go on ascending Meru is the thing. Set your mind on the ascent. Never deviate and digress you as the fall would be very dangerous.

We do not know what he is climbing, Meru or Kailash? He is thinking within himself and is consulting manna through dhyana-yoga, burning the lamp into some cave of Himalayan knowledge and wisdom to do tapasya and sadhna.

It is a dialogue held in between Manna and Atman. The poem is a dichotomy of the Self split into two. One part of the Self talks to the other, as if the one is the mortal while the other is divine.

This is a self-talk where the two half selves are sharing the talks. The Self of the poet and the Soul are engaged in discussions and having parleys and Yeats in between them anchoring the talk, taking a stenographic note of the discussion.

The ascension starts and the soul is summoned to start scaling, climbing, ascending with courage in heart, mind set upon the task to be accomplished and the climber climbing to reach the top, to go to the zenith however it may be the ascent.

My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?

But the Self has otherwise statement to give as it wants to live it more. Sato’s ancient blade in the cloth cover has been hanging for centuries. It is still shining and razor-edged. What does it refer, tell it about? The handloom cloth covering the blade still lies it thereon. What can the bloody sword and its victory bring to?

My Self. The consecrated blade upon my knees
Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was,
Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
Unspotted by the centuries;
That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
From some court-lady's dress and round
The wooden scabbard bound and wound,
Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.

The Soul thinks what it to do with the things of the past. Why to sculpt the wars fought? What it to do with the sculptures and figurines in love and amorous relationship? What this illusion, hallucination, infatuation for, maya-moha, kaam-vasana? Why to think of love and war all the time as this can never be the history of man? 

My Soul. Why should the imagination of a man
Long past his prime remember things that are
Emblematical of love and war?
Think of ancestral night that can,
If but imagination scorn the earth
And intellect its wandering
To this and that and t'other thing,
Deliver from the crime of death and birth.

Montashi fashioned it five hundred years ago. Embroidered it with motifs and myths, it looks mythical and emblematical.  It is a soldier’s right to safeguard from the enemies and even he does it any crime while dispensing with his job, it is not a crime.

My Self. Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
Five hundred years ago, about it lie
Flowers from I know not what embroidery—
Heart's purple—and all these I set
For emblems of the day against the tower
Emblematical of the night,
And claim as by a soldier's right
A charter to commit the crime once more.

There is a gap between mind and heart. Who can ascend to Heaven? Only the dead can be forgiven. Intellect does not know what is it from the Ought, or the Knower from the Known.

My Soul. Such fullness in that quarter overflows
And falls into the basin of the mind
That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
For intellect no longer knows
Is from the Ought, or Knower from the Known—
That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
Only the dead can be forgiven;
But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.

The Self wants to live and re-live enjoying the pains and pleasures of the world. What does it matter if it lives for once more, if it endures the toil of growing up? The ignominy of boyhood, the distress of boyhood changing into man, it wants to taste the fruit.

The poet talks of the finished man. How can man escape from in the name of Heaven? It will be a folly of some sort if one spends time in choosing the false partner. Why to be blind to anyone? Why to be blind in love?

To be able to shun remorse is the main thing. We must learn to smile and laugh. The pleasure of blessedness is divine.

My Self. A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;
The finished man among his enemies?—
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what's the good of an escape
If honor find him in the wintry blast?
I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

What are we for really? This is the thing that he is trying to feel it here. The story of warfare or the story of human love, what should we talk it about? Shantih and sukkha, with this he concludes. How to be happy, sukhi? How to get shantih, peace? The Body or the Soul, which one to take into confidence? The shantih of the mind, the sukkha of the soul are but important.

Image (c)


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

Top | Literary Shelf

Views: 124      Comments: 0

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.