I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
— William Butler Yeats,
“The Song of the Wandering Aengus”
I’m sad, Nick told me the other day.
Because Caroline’s leaving.
It’s true. In the fall, Caroline, a girl Nick has known four years and who’s had a crush on him for the last two, will be leaving Fern Hill to attend another school.
Nick is oblivious to the crush. Sometimes Caroline, who is eight, drapes her arm around him. Mostly, he ignores this.
“What do you think about Caroline,” I asked him once.
“I have no clue,” he said.
The course of true love never did run smooth.
Sometime before a boy’s tenth year, he’ll have a vision. A girl will appear. She’ll have golden hair, and like the girl in the Yeats poem, she’ll vanish in the brightening air. I myself had such a vision once. I’ve never been released from the spell.
I’m in good company. Yeats had a particularly bad case of the girl, who appeared in his life in the person of Maude Gonne. She refused to marry him, despite his four proposals. He wrote of her:
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Botticelli painted Simonetta Vespucci over and over after she died as a young woman. At his request, he was buried at her feet. She appears in the “Birth of Aphrodite” from which is taken the detail at the top of this post. It’s a painting I have spent some time with. Here she is again.
A lot can happen to you, spending time with a painting. Simonetta’s demure mouth is lovely, of course, but it’s those half-closed, bedroom eyes that get me. One kiss from such a puella will undo you. It could happen, I think, even if you kissed the canvas.
This one. Her name is Lyla Leroll. I first saw her when a boy, in a story written by Joe Schuster himself. She was the most famous movie star on the planet Krypton. She became Superman’s lover when he traveled back in time, but alas, fate divided them at the moment of surrender. The panel, with it’s lovely green, red, and purple moons—purple to match her dress—shows her at the exact instant she knows she will never see him again.
These unobtainable women, who live on unobtainable planets. They are wind and cloud. Jung made much of them, of course, and for good reason. Every few years he found another.
I wait for Nick’s girl with golden hair. She’s out there. Maybe this sadness over Caroline means he’s ready. He’ll turn a corner, or the page of a book, or see some movie.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she’ll walk into his.
. . .
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Guinevere, by Donovan. The most beautiful song in the world, or nearly so. Listen for 24 seconds. If you like it but have to run, I’m sure you’ll find it on iTunes:
I can’t help myself. Donovan again, The Song of the Wandering Aengus, set to music and beautifully illustrated in woodcut style:
Oh, I could go on and on. Somebody stop me before I embed again.
Aengus, by the way, is the Irish god of love.
. . .
LAST WEEK I wrote a guest post for Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules, a blog on the Writer’s Digest website. The post was called 4 Steps to Useful Critiques: The Lerman Method. It describes an approach to offering feedback for a piece of writing. I happen to think it’s a fruitful way to approach art-making in general, both for artists and audiences.
Thoughts about the girl with golden hair? Add your comment below. I always respond here.