Crazy Jane

William Butler Yeats wrote a bunch of Crazy Jane poems. Crazy Jane can always get away with expressing unorthodox wisdom, and say outrageous things, because she’s Crazy. Her antagonist is the Bishop, who represents conventional stuffy moralizing, and this bugs her so much, in fact it drives her Crazy.

In particular, one of these poems that has always fascinated and puzzled me is “Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop”. It ends with a sort of Zen koan, a paradoxical statement.

How can something be whole as a result of being torn?

I have my own theory as to what she means by this, but I’d be interested in finding out what Dopers make of it.

for love has pitched his tent
in the place of excrement
and nothing can be sole or whole
that has not been rent.

yeats is my favorite. i could write a term paper on this; someday i may. but on the most basic level, when you are born, your umbilical cord is cut. even as you start in this life, you experience separation and loss. there are lots more examples. cmon dopers!

At first blush, this strikes me as a poetic re-statement of the aphorism “Every act of creation is an act of destruction”…

Yike! Get the quote right! It’s

But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement
You can read the lines in a number of ways. My take has been that Yeats was speaking of sexual love, and the act of rutting. Crazy Jane has no qualms in bringing this subject up with the Bishop. She’s crazy, dig?

Being “rent” means popping the ol’ cherry. Also, Love cannot truly be known until one’s “heart has been broken.”

Compare to:

Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show…

…Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

I think I’ve always seen those lines as advocating separation, cutting the apron strings, independence from an unwanted imperialist power, what have you: Until you tear yourself away from whatever you’re a part of, you’ll never be anything but a part of something else.

That said, I haven’t read the whole poem in a while, so I may be anachronizing some of Yeats’ regular themes.

Oooh, you guys are good.

Here’s another take:

If I hear the word “rent” without context, I think of “The veil of the Temple was rent in twain,” which is the King James (I’m pretty sure) language for what happened when Jesus died–usually thought to represent the elimination of the barrier between God and man, or the implementation of the New Covenant which dispensed with the need for the Jewish priestly class to act as the conduit between God and man–Jesus’ death supposedly puts man into direct contact with God because of Jesus’ dual man/God nature.

The context in the Yeats isn’t perfect, but they are talking about life and death and one of the speakers is a Bishop. So, I think it does have something to do with the dual nature of love (pure and soulful and bodily and earthy too).

Or, it could be about popping the cherry.

Man. I wanted this to be a DOOM PATROL thread.

Ukelele Ike: YES! Exactly. You must have read my mind. I was going to say that, but you said it better. Since the lines right before that hint at the genitalia, I was thinking of the whole blossoming of sexual womanhood and everything.

Extra credit for the “rag and bone shop of the heart” quote. :smiley:

KneadToKnow and Humble Servant, those are very cool interpretations that I hadn’t thought of, but they look good. This is why I thought of asking Dopers! Dopers collectively rock! :slight_smile:

GrandfatherTrout: I think you just “whooshed” me. :confused:

Jomo Mojo:

Crazy Jane is a schizophrenic woman who was a member of the Doom Patrol super-hero team during the years that that comic book was written by Grant Morrison. Each personality of hers, and there were dozens of them, had different powers.

Upon seeing the title, I also thought the thread was about her.

[Sonorous Dylan Thomas Voice] Awwwwwww, dude! C’mere for huggies! [/Sonorous Dylan Thomas Voice]

To give the full quote:

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.

Also, the “Nor grave nor bed denied” line in the earlier stanza leads the mind down these paths. Crazy Jane may have “flat and fallen” breasts now, but she kicked up her heels when she was a young 'un.

thousand pardons, uke. its been way too long since i read it and i couldnt find my norton anthology. and thanks for the quote from ‘the circus animals’ desertion,’ another great poem.

as to the interpretation, i think of course the lines refer to sexual love in a very basic way. but there is such a delicious paradox to the final two lines; i’d like to think yeats meant something, well, deeper than cherry-bustin.’ this is one of those literary footballs one can run a long way with.

yours respectfully, the misquoting one