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Easter, the time for pageantry and paradox.

I love paradox. That's essential for a Catholic or for any person of faith, I suppose. I love the idea of the "seemingly absurd or contradictory, though often true, statement," as paradox is defined by OED.

At Easter, the paradox, of course, is that it is through death that one finds new life; or, in allowing the old way of life to die, one can be reborn in a new life. That sounds absurd on the surface, but the message of the resurrection can be beautiful.

Anyway, one of my favourite poems, from a favourite poet, presents paradox in a wonderful way. William Butler Yeats wrote "Crazy Jane Talks with The Bishop" in 1933 and I love the way it presents some huge ideas.

For one, "Crazy Jane" is presented as a kind of sacred fool, who is allowed to speak the truth only because she does so in a kind of oblique way, as a "fool." The Bishop is, of course, a hypocrite who lectures Jane on the way she has lived her life and has forgotten that Christ didn't live among the rich and powerful, but instead with the poor, the downtrodden...."Love has pitched His mansion in/The place of excrement."

But my favourite line is the very last and to me, a beautiful and powerful truth. That is, that we can't ever really be complete or whole people until we have lived and been hurt and torn, perhaps had our hearts broken, and survived to become more compassionate because of our experiences. "For nothing can be sole or whole/That has not been rent."

Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop

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."

Comments (1)


What an interesting post, Sandra. I love this poem of Yeats - thanks so much for posting it!

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