Worked up into a complete snit…
“Homosexualists” have broken into John Derbyshire’s home and just completely ruined Yeats for him (when they should have been doing something about his hair…and his skin…those clothes… those glasses…and, oh hell, it would take a Queer Eye marathon to clean him up and make him presentable). Anyway…what was I saying? Oh yeah, Derb…he wants his gay back:
THEY CAN HAVE MY VOCABULARY… [John Derbyshire]
…when they prise it from my cold dead fingers. In yesterday’s column I indulged myself in a grumble about the loss of the word “gay” to the homosexualists. Language conservatives have been grumbling about this for 40 years, of course; but I don’t see why there should be any statute of limitations on linguistic larceny of this kind.
The true outrageousness of this particular crime has just been brought home to me. By way of reviewing Volume 2 of Roy Foster’s biography of W.B. Yeats, I have been re-reading my way through Yeats’s COLLECTED POEMS. Now, one of the things that makes Yeats such a great poet is that he never “went off.” His later poems are just as good — though in different ways–as his earlier ones. One of his best is “Lapis Lazuli,” written in 1936, when Yeats was 71 years old. It spells out, in a very allusive way, an attitude to the transience of life, based on the contemplation of an 11-inch high Chinese carving, in the kind of stone called lapis lazuli, given to Yeats by his friend Henry Clifton. The word “gay” is essential to both the sound and the sense of this poem, for instance in the tremendous final couplet: “Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes, / Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.” (Dylan Thomas, when reading the poem to audiences, used to leave a long pause before the last two words.)
The problem is, of course, that you can’t read this poem as it was meant to be read, because that key word has been trashed. This might seem a small thing to get worked up about, in a world where horrors like the Fallujah killings are happening every day, but I am worked up about it. (And the poem, by the way, addresses exactly the propriety of getting worked up over art in a world of war–or, in Yeats’s case, incipient war.) I for one will not surrender. I am going to use “gay” in its proper, Yeatsian sense every chance I get.
Posted at 01:45 PM
I say we give it back to him because I think it would make him happy. Or gay, as the case may be. In fact, I think it would make the Derb just about the gayest man on Earth….