Sunday, January 13, 2013

Poetry Monday: Appointment with Mr Yeats

I've been reading WB Yeats' poetry for years - indeed I feel like I've grown up with it.  Though it's hard to beat the intense universal power of the later poems like "The Second Coming" and "Lapis Lazuli" which continue to be as relevant today as they were when Yeats published them in the early 20th Century, many of the earlier poems work beautifully as song lyrics. I have always loved The Waterboy's rendition of "The Stolen Child" from Fisherman's Blues, and was delighted when they released an entire album of songs created around Yeats' poems.  All of the songs are underpinned by a deep love and sense of meaning behind the words that inspired them, enriched with Celtic sounds: wild fiddle solos, rich vocal harmonies (Katie Kim's voice is so understatedly beautiful and works perfectly with Mike Scott's booming growl), flutes, saxaphone, oboe, guitar of course, and lots of other instruments. The band is tight as ever, and the songs do more than justice to the poetry. I think it's fair to say that I like it all (and am looking forward to seeing the Waterboys live next week when they perform at the Sydney Opera House), but a few of my particular favourites include "Mad as The Mist and Snow":

Bolt and bar the shutter, 
For the foul winds blow: 
Our minds are at their best this night,
And I seem to know 
That everything outside us is Mad as the mist and snow.

I love the way the music builds and builds, and the fiddle solo is just brilliant:

I also love "Let the Earth Bear Witness" - one of the simplest and most yet universally powerful poems which Scott, his wife Janette, and musician Ian Barrett have turned into a moving, and thoroughly modern video tribute to freedom fighters everywhere.

Let the sea bear witness
Let the wind bear witness
Let the earth bear witness
Let the stars bear witness

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