Sunday Poetry – W B Yeats

Educating Rita is another movie that I love & have watched many times. As you can see, I loved it so much, I bought the play (like Rita & Macbeth), the novelization of the film script & even the soundtrack on cassette. It was Julie Walters’ first major role & one of the best parts Michael Caine has ever played. Julie Walters had played Rita on stage so she was the obvious choice for the film role although that doesn’t always happen when movies are made of plays. Remember Julie Andrews & My Fair Lady? Luckily in this case, sanity prevailed & we were able to enjoy her wonderful performance. I’ve just watched it again & I could practically recite the entire script, I’ve seen it so often.

Rita is a young working class woman who wants an education. She joins the Open University to study English Literature & is assigned to a tutor, Frank. Frank is bored with his life & his students & he drinks too much. Rita’s eruption into his rooms at the university is the catalyst for change in both their lives. It’s such a warm, funny, moving story. Willy Russell wrote the screenplay from his own play & naturally he kept most of his own dialogue. The play was a two-hander so it’s been expanded a little for the film but the central scenes are Frank & Rita sitting (Frank sits, Rita wanders around) in his office talking about books & life.

One of my favourite scenes is when Frank explains assonance to Rita.

RITA What does assonance mean?
FRANK (half-spluttering) What? (He gives a short laugh)
RITA  Don’t laugh at me.
FRANK No. Erm – assonance. It’s a form of rhyme. What’s a – what’s an example -erm-? Do you know Yeats?
RITA The wine lodge?
FRANK Yeats the poet.
FRANK Oh. Well – there’s a Yeats poem, called ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’. In it he rhymes the word ‘swan’ with the word ‘stone’. there, you see, an example of assonance.
RITA Oh. It means gettin’ the rhyme wrong.
FRANK (looking at her and laughing) I’ve never really looked at it like that. But yes, yes you could say it means getting the rhyme wrong; but purposefully, in order to achieve a certain effect.
(Act 1, Scene 1)

So here is The Wild Swans at Coole.

The trees are in their autumn beauty,   
The woodland paths are dry,   
Under the October twilight the water   
Mirrors a still sky;   
Upon the brimming water among the stones            
Are nine and fifty swans.   
The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me   
Since I first made my count;   
I saw, before I had well finished,   
All suddenly mount     
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings   
Upon their clamorous wings.   
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,   
And now my heart is sore.   
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,     
The first time on this shore,   
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,   
Trod with a lighter tread.   
Unwearied still, lover by lover,   
They paddle in the cold,     
Companionable streams or climb the air;   
Their hearts have not grown old;   
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,   
Attend upon them still.   
But now they drift on the still water     
Mysterious, beautiful;   
Among what rushes will they build,   
By what lake’s edge or pool   
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day   
To find they have flown away?    

2 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – W B Yeats

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