No Country for Old Men

“That is no country for old men. ….”

The words sound familiar, of course, because they make you think of a movie featuring a memorable sociopath played by Javier Bardem.

Not sure how Yeats would react, since these are the opening words to his poem, “Sailing to Byzantium.”

Many titles of books and movies, and many well-known expressions and phrases, derive their origins from poetry, which, like an aquifer, provides life to culture, and yet remains hidden from view.  A lot of thirsty writers, parched of inspiration, draw from the well and don’t give credit.

My first encounter with Yeats began with those words, and I’ve since been moved by his mystic, spell-like power. Here are some favorite lines of mine:

The woods of Arcady are dead,

And over is their antique joy;

Of old the world on dreaming fed;

Grey Truth is now her painted toy;

Yet still she turns her restless head:

But O, sick children of the world,

Of all the many changing things

In dreary dancing past us whirled,

To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,

Words alone are certain good.

—- opening lines from The Song of the Happy Shepherd

That’s the type of verse I enjoy reading out loud and memorizing.

Footnotes: Arcady refers to Arcadia, a region in Greece;

“represented as a paradise in Greek and Roman bucolic poetry” – Encyclopedia Brittancia. It would be interesting to visit modern-day Arkadía to make a comparison.

Chronos refers to Time, personified.

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