Two of my favourite poets, Yeats and RS Thomas. It’s not known whether this was a real or imagined event. Thomas often travelled on the Holyhead train, as did Yeats. They were contemporary, both passionate about their Celtic culture. Both, in my humble opinion, shared the same muse.
The rail rhythm of the first two lines is simple and stunning. And ‘In mutual silence closer than lover knit’ my favourite line in poetry… and life. This is not necessarily, however, the view of my own muse… the missus.
Memories of Yeats while Travelling to Holyhead
How often he went on this journey, think of it, think of it:
The metrical train, the monosyllabic sea,
The listening hilltops, aloof and resentful of strangers.
Who would have refrained from addressing him here, not discerning
The embryonic poem still coiled in the ivory skull?
Boredom or closeness of age might have prompted, his learning
Concealed by his tweed and the azure, ecstatic tie;
But who would have sensed the disdain of his slow reply
Of polite acquiescence in their talk of the beautiful?
Who would have guessed the futility even of praising
Mountain and marsh and the delicate, flickering tree
To one long impervious and cold to the outward scene,
Heedless of nature’s baubles, lost in the amazing
And labyrinth paths of his own impenetrable mind?
But something in the hair’s fine silver, the breadth of brow,
Had kept me dumb, too shy of his scornful anger
To presume to pierce the dark, inscrutable glasses,
His first defence against a material world.
Yet alone with him in the indifferent compartment, hurled
Between the waves’ white audience, the earth’s dim screen,
In mutual silence closer than lover knit
I had known reality dwindle, the dream begin.
RS Thomas’s homage to Yeats