* pennies, memory, & the friday influence

Brown Penny – WB Yeats

I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
And then, ‘I am old enough’;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
‘Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.’
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.


Today’s Friday Influence focuses on this lyric by WB Yeats.

I was introduced to this poem when talking randomly with a stranger in a bookstore.  We went back and forth about poets we had read.  Suddenly the name Yeats came up and the young man began reciting this poem from memory.  I walked away from that encounter eager to memorize the poem myself.

This was years ago.  I have since memorized around thirty poems.  Memorizing a poem, according to Galway Kinnell, is a way to own a poem, to have it be a part of your other memories.

I have a system: I write out a line longhand and then close my eyes, reading the words off the back of my eyes, reciting them to myself.  When I feel I have it, I write out the next line and then go over the two lines so far and then continue until I have the whole poem down.

This process is insightful in that it slows you down in your reading to the point that you begin to see the relation of each individual word and phrase to the others.  For example, the last line of the first stanza with its looped in the loops of her hair hands up an image that leads into the O love is the crooked thing – not only is there the declarative O that mimics the hair loops visually but there is the tension between the physical and emotional hinted at slyly here.


Since we are now in the time of Gemini, the twins, I thought I would have this first post feature a twin of the Yeats poem.  Below is my tribute/imitation of ‘Brown Penny’ inspired by events in my little brother’s life when he was fifteen:


— with apologies to Yeats

I whispered he is too young
And then he is old enough
Wherefore I called my brother
To ask if he was in love.
He’s in love, he’s in love, mom said,
And for my feelings he doesn’t care.
Ah, lupito, lupito, lupito
You’ll get pulled to your room by your hair.

O blood is the crooked thing
I will never be wise enough
To know what I did or didn’t
To put me so distant from love —
It feels like the stars have run away
And shadows eaten the moon;
Ah, lupito, lupito, lupito
Don’t forget your brother too soon.


Happy pennying!


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