William Butler Yeats

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No Second Troy

 Why should I blame her that she filled my days
 With misery, or that she would of late
 Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
 Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
 Had they but courage equal to desire?
 What could have made her peaceful with a mind
 That nobleness made simple as a fire,
 With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
 That is not natural in an age like this,
 Being high and solitary and most stern.
 Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
 Was there another Troy for her to burn?

September 1913

 What need you being come to sense,
 But fumble in a greasy till,
 And add the halfpence to the pence
 And prayer to shivering prayer, until
 You have dried the marrow from the bone?
 For men were born to pray and save:
 Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
 It's with O'Leary in the grave.

 Yet they were of a different kind,
 The names that stilled your childish play,
 They have gone about the world like wind,
 But little time had they to pray
 For whom the hangman's rope was spun,
 And what, God help us, could they save?
 Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
 It's with O'Leary in the grave.

 Was it for this the wild geese spread
 They grey wing upon every tide;
 For this that all the blood was shed,
 For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
 And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
 All that delirium of the brave?
 Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
 It's with O'Leary in the grave.

 Yet could we turn the years again,
 And call those exiles as they were
 In all their loneliness and pain,
 You'd cry, "Some woman's yellow hair
 Has maddened every mother's son":
 They weighed so lightly what they gave
 But let them be they're dead and gone,
 They're with O'Leary in the grave.

The Fisherman

 Although I can see him still,
 The freckled man who goes
 To a grey place on a hill
 In grey Connemara clothes
 At dawn to cast his flies,
 It's long since I began to call up to the eyes
 This wise and simple man.
 All day I'd looked in the face
 What I had hoped 'twould be
 To write for my own race
 And the reality;
 The living men that I hate,
 The dead man that I loved,
 The craven man in his seat
 The insolent unreproved,
 And no knave brought to book
 Who has won a drunken cheer,
 The witty man and his joke
 Aimed at the commonest ear,
 The clever man who cries
 the catch-cries of the clown,
 The beating down of the wise,
 And great Art beaten down.

 Maybe a twelvemonth since
 Suddenly I began,
 In scorn of this audience,
 Imagining a man,
 And his sun-freckled face,
 And grey Connemara cloth,
 Climbing up to a place
 Where stone is dark under froth,
 And the down-turn of his wrist
 When flies drop in the stream;
 A man who does not exist,
 A man who is but a dream;
 And cried, "Before I am old
 I shall have written him one
 Poem maybe as cold
 And passionate as the dawn."

Sailing to Byzantium

 That is no country for old men. The young
 In one another's arms, birds in the trees
 --Those dying generations--at their song,
 The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
 Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
 Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
 Caught in that sensual music all neglect
 Monuments of unageing intellect.

 An aged man is but a paltry thing,
 A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
 Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
 For every tatter in its mortal dress,
 Nor is there singing school but studying
 Monuments of its own magnificence:
 And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
 To the holy city of Byzantium.

 O sages standing in God's holy fire
 As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
 Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
 And be the singing-masters of my soul.
 Consume my heart away; sick with desire
 And fastened to a dying animal
 It knows not what it is; and gather me
 Into the artifice of eternity.

 Once out of nature I shall never take
 My bodily form from any natural thing,
 But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
 Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
 To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
 Or set upon a golden bough to sing
 To lords and ladies of Byzantium
 Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Among School Children

 I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
 A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
 The children learn to cipher and to sing,
 Top study reading-books and histories,
 To cut and sew, be neat in everything
 In the best modern way-- the children's eyes
 In momentary wonder stare upon
 A sixty-year-old smiling public man.

 I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
 Above a sinking fire, a tale that she
 Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
 That changed some childish day to tragedy--
 Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
 Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
 Or else, to alter Plato's parable,
 Into the yolk and white of the one shell.

 And thinking of that fit of grief or rate
 I look upon one child or t'other there
 And wonder if she stood so at that age--
 For even daughters of the swan can share
 Something of every paddler's heritage--
 And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
 And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
 She stands before me as a living child.

 Her present image floats into the mind--
 Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
 Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
 And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
 And I though never of Ledaean kind
 Had pretty plumage once -- enough of that,
 Better to smile on all that smile and show
 There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.

 What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
 Honey of generation had betrayed,
 And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
 As recollection or the drug decide,
 Would think her son, did she but see that shape
 With sixty or more winters on its head,
 A compensation for the pang of his birth,
 Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?

 Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
 Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
 Soldier Aristotle played the taws
 Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
 World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
 Fingered upon a fiddle-stick of strings
 What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
 Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.

 Both nuns and mothers worship images,
 But those the candles light are not as those
 That animate a mother's reveries,
 But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
 And yet they too break hearts==O Presences
 That passion, piety or affection knows,
 And that all heavenly glory symbolise--
 O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;

 Labour is blossoming or dancing where
 The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
 Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
 Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil,
 O chesnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
 Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
 O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
 How can we know the dancer from the dance?

The Circus Animals' Desertion

 I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
 I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
 Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
 I must be satisfied with my heart, although
 Winter and summer till old age began
 My circus animals were all on show,
 Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
 Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

 What can I but enumerate old themes?
 First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
 Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
 Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
 Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
 That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
 But what cared I that set him on to ride,
 I, starved for the bosom of his fairy bride?

 And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
 The Countess Cathleen was the name I gave it;
 She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
 But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
 I thought my dear must her own soul destroy,
 Sop did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
 And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
 This dream itself had all my thought and love.

 An when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
 Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
 Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
 It was the dream itself enchanted me:
 Character isolated by a deed
 To engross the present and dominate memory.
 Players and painted stage took all my love,
 And not those thing that they were emblems of.

 Those masterful images because complete
 Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
 A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
 Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
 Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
 Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
 I must lie down where all the ladders start,
 In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.

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