“It is an honorable Thought…” (946)
It is an honorable Thought
And makes One lift One’s Hat
As One met sudden Gentlefolk
Upon a daily Street
That We’ve immortal Place
Though Pyramids decay
And Kingdoms, like the Orchard
Flit Russetly away
“It is an honorable Thought…. [t]hat We’ve immortal Place.” Not a reasonable thought, nor one entirely braindead. This thought “makes One lift One’s Hat / As One met sudden Gentlefolk:” “met” strikes suddenly – where is the “daily Street,” exactly? Before “met,” all the verbs are in the present tense. “Thought” as a noun, though, is the past of thinking. Is the “daily Street” the afterlife? The thought itself? A memory?
Perhaps all three, in a routine. I can’t help but recall the opening of Yeats’ “Easter 1916” in the first stanza, except I am loath to add “polite” and “meaningless” without just cause. There is a routine (“daily,” “lift One’s Hat”), but it is in response to “sudden Gentlefolk.” What makes everyone else a Gentleman or Lady? The honorable “Thought” all have in their own heads: “sudden” and the repetition of “One” cast doubt on the existence of “We.”
However, the “immortal Place” does exist for each of us, all at once (i.e. a hat covers the head, but we can all wear the same hat). “Thought” is contingent on “though:” we ignore the actual products of a previous “We” who gave honor to One. “Kingdoms” takes us away from the social in an earthly sense. These “Kingdoms” are “like the Orchard” – God’s garden? Eden? – which certainly “Flit Russetly away.” Russetly – like something reddish-brown, like an apple, but perhaps most relevantly: in a simple, homely way. We are all, ironically, Ladies and Gentlemen in this age – not the worst thing. A sudden recognition of another is better than none at all, even if well after the fact.