Showing posts with label William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Show all posts

William Butler Yeats – A Dialogue of Self and Soul


My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
   Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
   Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
   Upon the breathless starlit air,
   Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
   Fix every wandering thought upon
   That quarter where all thought is done:
   Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?

My Self. The consecrated blade upon my knees
   Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was,
   Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
   Unspotted by the centuries;
   That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
   From some court-lady's dress and round
   The wooden scabbard bound and wound,
   Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.

My Soul. Why should the imagination of a man
   Long past his prime remember things that are
   Emblematical of love and war?
   Think of ancestral night that can,
   If but imagination scorn the earth
   And intellect its wandering
   To this and that and t'other thing,
   Deliver from the crime of death and birth.

My Self. Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
   Five hundred years ago, about it lie
   Flowers from I know not what embroidery—
   Heart's purple—and all these I set
   For emblems of the day against the tower
   Emblematical of the night,
   And claim as by a soldier's right
   A charter to commit the crime once more.

My Soul. Such fullness in that quarter overflows
   And falls into the basin of the mind
   That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
   For intellect no longer knows
   Is from the Ought, or Knower from the Known—
   That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
   Only the dead can be forgiven;
   But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.

My Self. A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;

The finished man among his enemies?—
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what's the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?

I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

William Butler Yeats – A Prayer for My Daughter


Once more the storm is howling, and half hid   
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid   
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle   
But Gregory's Wood and one bare hill   
Whereby the haystack and roof-levelling wind,   
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;   
And for an hour I have walked and prayed   
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour,
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come   
Dancing to a frenzied drum   
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.

May she be granted beauty, and yet not   
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,   
Or hers before a looking-glass; for such,   
Being made beautiful overmuch,   
Consider beauty a sufficient end,   
Lose natural kindness, and maybe   
The heart-revealing intimacy   
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

Helen, being chosen, found life flat and dull,   
And later had much trouble from a fool;   
While that great Queen that rose out of the spray,   
Being fatherless, could have her way,   
Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.   
It's certain that fine women eat   
A crazy salad with their meat   
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.

In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;   
Hearts are not had as a gift, but hearts are earned   
By those that are not entirely beautiful.   
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise;   
And many a poor man that has roved,   
Loved and thought himself beloved,   
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree,   
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,   
And have no business but dispensing round   
Their magnanimities of sound;   
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,   
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.   
Oh, may she live like some green laurel   
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,   
The sort of beauty that I have approved,   
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,   
Yet knows that to be choked with hate   
May well be of all evil chances chief.   
If there's no hatred in a mind   
Assault and battery of the wind   
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

An intellectual hatred is the worst,   
So let her think opinions are accursed.   
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of Plenty's horn,   
Because of her opinionated mind   
Barter that horn and every good   
By quiet natures understood   
For an old bellows full of angry wind?

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,   
The soul recovers radical innocence   
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,   
And that its own sweet will is heaven's will,   
She can, though every face should scowl   
And every windy quarter howl   
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house   
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;   
For arrogance and hatred are the wares   
Peddled in the thoroughfares.   
How but in custom and in ceremony   
Are innocence and beauty born?   
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,   
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

William Butler Yeats – The Wild Old Wicked Man

William-Butler-Yeats- The-Wild-Old-Wicked-Man

'Because I am mad about women
I am mad about the hills,'
Said that wild old wicked man
Who travels where God wills.
'Not to die on the straw at home,
Those hands to close the eyes,
That is all I ask, my dear,
From the old man in the skies.
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

'Kind are all your words, my dear,
Do not the rest withhold.
Who can know the year, my dear,
When an old man's blood grows cold?
I have what no young man can have
Because he loves too much.
Words I have that can pierce the heart,
But what can he do but touch?'
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

Then said she to that wild old man,
his stout stick under his hand,
'Love to give or to withhold
Is not at my command.
I gave it all to an older man:
That old man in the skies.
Hands that are busy with His beads
can never close those eyes.'
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

'Go your ways, O go your ways,
I choose another mark,
Girls down on the seashore
Who understand the dark;
Bawdy talk for the fishermen;
A dance for the fisher-lads;
When dark hangs upon the water
They turn down their beds.
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

'A young man in the dark am I,
But a wild old man in the light,
That can make a cat laugh, or
Can touch by mother wit
Things hid in their marrow-bones
From time long passed away,
Hid from all those warty lads
That by their bodies lay.
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

'All men live in suffering,
I know as few can know,
Whether they take the upper road
Or stay content on the low,
Rower bent in his row-boat
Or weaver bent at his loom,
Horseman erect upon horseback
Or child hid in the womb.
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

'That some stream of lightning
From the old man in the skies
Can burn out that suffering
No right-taught man denies.
But a coarse old man am I,
I choose the second-best,
I forget it all a while
Upon a woman's breast.'
                                Daybreak and a candle-end.

William Butler Yeats – When You Are Old

William-Butler-Yeats- When-You-Are-Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats – The Cold Heaven

William-Butler-Yeats-  Th-Cold-Heaven

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?