The Corner

Bill

I got to tell him once what I thought of him, almost, to his face. Henry Kissinger wanted to throw a dinner in his honor, and he asked Bill to make up the guest list. Bill wanted all younger people. Bob Tyrrell was the oldest of the lot. After the meal and some remarks by (I think) Kissinger, toasts ensued. Yeats wrote a poem, “Beautiful Lofty Things,” about the people he had known in his youth. It is a bold and moving poem, because it is not about traditional subjects, such as love and death, or even traditional Yeatsian subjects, such as theosophy, but about particular people whose glory he asserts and praises. One of them was his father, a patron of the Irish theater. “My father on the Abbey stage, before him a raging crowd./ ‘This land of saints’ — and as the applause died out, ‘Of plaster saints.’/ His beautiful, mischievous head thrown back…” No one, I added, was more respectful of saints, more mischievous towards  plaster ones. How beautiful that was.

Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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