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?
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.
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.