What shall I do with this absurdity —
O heart, O troubled heart — this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?
Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fantastical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible —
No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,
Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back
And had the livelong summer day to spend.
It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel.
(Quoted from Poetry Foundation.)
I'm only interested in the first stanza for now. I have mixed feelings about the first stanza. I like the image of decrepit age being something tied to a dog's tail. It really serves to show how foreign age is to the poet's soul; it is simply not a part of him, but something he tows along.
I like the idea that age excites his imagination more, but when its song is dormant he must content himself with an old friend — Plato or Plotinus, interesting reading choices. He seems to be saying that Plato and Plotinus come in handy until the imagination is ready to soar.
But then, when the poet is ready to sing, when the imagination is ready to soar, there is no song, no beauty. Only this alternate possibility that things will go wrong, and the poet will be derided by a "battered kettle at the heel".
What does this phrase even mean? I can only think of a tea kettle. Why would it be battered? What image is he trying to show? What point is he trying to make?