Monday, February 23, 2015

Crazy Jane Talks With the Bishop

Crazy Jane Talks With the Bishop
   by William Butler Yeats

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
'Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.'

'Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,' I cried.
'My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.'  
A elderly, possibly deranged or at least eccentric woman named Crazy Jane encountered a Bishop while walking along a road. The Bishop scolded her for her unholy way of life and exhorts her to mend her ways and become more pious and virtuous. He pointed out to her the obvious facts that she is advancing in age, and doesn't have much time left.  Therefore, said the Bishop, she should become more religious and give up her life of sensuality.

But Crazy Jane countered the Bishop’s pious advice and admonition. She declared that fair and foul, virtue and vice, body and soul are unavoidably co-existent; and life is complete only with the union of each. Life becomes meaningful and entire only when body and soul work together. Rather than despise the body, a person should accept physical pleasure as a truth of life. In general, the sacred and the profane are both necessary ingredients in the composition of human life, and should coexist. We cannot accept the one and deny the other: the whole can be achieved only when a foul is also accepted along with the fair.

While the bishop’s point was that Jane should live a more religious life, instead of feeling ashamed she argued that love and lust should be accepted as an important part of life. She ends her response with a philosophical twist. She points out that love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement, and ends with the statement of the Platonic opposites.  With this poem William Butler Yeats creates a dynamic tension of the differing views.


Linda Kay said...

Another deep and philosophical post this morning. Love the cartoon.

John Hill said...

Interesting post.

I think that I would enjoy a conversation over a cup of chicory coffee, someday. You are an interesting young woman, Angel!

Juliette said...

The poem has an interesting rhyme.

TexWisGirl said...


Dixie@dcrelief said...

Damn that cartoon!!!

Mike said...

I'm glad you explained it.

Brandi said...

That was funny, the bishop being brought up short by the crazy lady!

Cloudia said...

Always worthwhile to walk with you a while and hear what you are thinking, Angel.

ALOHA from Honolulu