Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop: Summary & Analysis

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Stanza I

      I (Jane) met the Bishop on the road and we held a conversation. (The Bishop exhorted me to lead a virtuous life). The Bishop said, ‘Tour breasts are flat and old and your views will get stiff on account of old age. Lead a virtuous and godly life so as to deserve a place in Heaven, and give up your sinful life which is as dirty as a pig-sty.

Stanza II

      I replied that good and bad are closely connected; good needs evil as a compliment; one is incomplete without the other. My friends, sexy like me, are dead and it is true that no honor or grave has been denied to them. They were experts in bodily vice but they were proud of their hearts.

Stanza III

      I further added that a woman can be proud and strong in matters of love. Love has its abode in the place of excrement. Love finds fulfillment in the filthy organs. Nothing can be perfectly ok complete unless it has been tried and experimented with. The virginity of a woman is perfected by consummation.

Critical Analysis


      The Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop poems are based on a real character—an old peasant woman who was a neighbour of Lady Gregory—a woman of the world—passionate, sexy, frank and uninhibited but rather caustic in her talk. In this poem, she acts as the poet’s mouthpiece for a sane philosophy that both body and soul are the creation of God and as such pure and holy. One need not mortify or starve the flesh for the sake of the spirit. Sex is a part of life and should not be frowned upon as something wicked. For an integrated personality, the experience of normal sex life is essential. Even philosophers and saints have dwelt on the importance of physical love as a step to divine love. The Bishop regards sex as foul and sinful. Jane retorts that the seat of love—the private organs—is the place of excrement. Fair and foul are closely inter-connected. Physical love is necessary for a full life. Yeats’s concept of religion and morality was broad enough to accept the frailties of the flesh. What matters is the dignity of the heart and the experience of the totality of life.

Development of Thought

      The Bishop meets the lewd old Jane and rebukes her for her evil ways. She is still busy with her sex-life. He advise her to give up her sexuality, now that she is old. She must think of God and heaven and leave the pig-sty of fleshy enjoyment. Jane—a worldly-wise woman and fond of the joys of the senses—retorts that fair and foul, good and bad always go together. One is reminded of the Platonic theory of opposites: “Every quality cries out to be combined with that which is most alien to it, and without such fusion, it cannot be called complete: without contraries, there is no progression. The consummation of virginity lies in its desecration just as the consummation of the divine order lies in its reconciliation with the fallen world” (F.A.C. Wilson). Jane also adds that wisely enough God has placed the organs of love in the place of excrement. Physical pleasures are an essential part of life. A woman is full of pride when she is overwhelmed by the passion of love. Wholeness or completeness or integration of human personality can be achieved only when the bad is accepted along with the good.


      This is the most important series of poems on Crazy Jane. Regarding the poem which Yeats wrote during his illness, he told Olivia about Shakespeare: “sexual abstinence fed their fire. I was ill and full of desire. They sometimes came out of the greatest mental excitement I am capable of.”

      The poem contains three stanzas of six lines each. The dialogue is brisk and spicy, Jane’s philosophy is the same and convincing. The poem is remarkable for its blending of the sensuous with the sublime, the petty with the significant, the gay with the heroic.

Critical Opinions

      B. Rajan writes in this connection: “Actually, satire and sluttishness are not the outstanding qualities of the series and even the much-vaunted sexuality of the poetry needs to be accepted in its context if it is not to obscure the central meaning. It is more legitimate to regard the essence of Crazy Jane as her derelict dignity in the face of circumstance, a kind of heroic inviolability amid the humiliations of the blind man’s ditch.”

      Richard Ellmann comments in the same vein: “But Crazy Jane is not so wild as she appears, or as Yeats pretended, as the last two lines indicate, she shares his theories about love, and sees it not as a conflict of opposites but also as escape from them to unity, wholeness, or to use a word which she would not have used to beatitude. Her testimony is double valuable because she has never read a hook. Though she pride herself on her license, she is tightly controlled by her creator, and when her promiscuity begins to persecute his imagination and her language to ‘become unendurable’, he exercises her from his verse.”

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