I’m often forced to reflect that Yeats’ short and late poem ‘Politics’ just about sums up the unhappy lot of an ageing Irishman in this world. I believe the poem is set against the 30s political engagement of most of his contemporaries in exchange for which Yeats in the poem would gladly swap holding a beautiful woman in his arms.
Waking this Monday morning, Yeats’s poem came to my mind, after a deep feeling of irreality had cleared. This feeling arose as I awoke midway through a radio report which I first took for some pranksters having taken over the airwaves.
France’s diminutive leader, it appeared, was now going out with not so diminutive ex-model and singer Carla Bruni. What’s more, the happy couple had decided to reveal their dalliance to France’s frenzied paparazzi Sunday just passed in Euro Disney, of all places. I tried to come to terms with the thought of Sarkozy perched on a footstool to get at his belle and then I had the double shock of having to digest one of Europe’s leaders having the sheer class to opt for such a place for such a revelation.
As the day progressed, I learned that the affair was not like Orson Welles’ Martians or the recent hoax partition of Belgium but was indeed reality. Obviously not a lot else of importance was going on in the world for the French media were bombarding us with the story. All of which suits Mr. Sarkozy fine - if they’re talking about his love affair they’re not talking about the glaring lack of end result thus far from the large amount of hot air he has blown during his election campaign and since his election as president.
It all also smacks of a Blairish gift for media-manipulation. In a similar vein, he appears to have even panned out his getting back together with (for the duration of the election campaign) and subsequent divorce from (at another opportune moment to get the media looking the other way) his last wife Cécilia to coincide nicely with his media requirements.
Which brings us back to Yeats. Ms Bruni’s last album was a fairly competent mise en musique of a dozen or so poems by the greats of English-language poetry - including W.B. himself.
That look on Sarkozy’s face as they pass by the Mickey Mouse parade (the photo in Hello) would seem to be his mulling over the stunning lyricism of ‘When the World Was Young’. And William, if you’d stuck out the senator business and not just wrote songs for them, you might have held a few more of them in your arms…