Sunday, October 25, 2009

William Butler Yeats

Yeats should require little introduction. One of my undergraduate professors likened him to Bugs Bunny in the carrot factory episode – junk in, carrots (or poetry) out – on account of Yeats’ odd panoply of belief systems. He found it odd that such a crackpot was such a great poet.

I think Yeats was confused and more than a little conflicted by the rang of forces striving to claim his loyalty. The proliferating mythologies to which he ascribed seem an effort to create a better realm, one more worthy of his devotion. Yet even this realm was imperiled by the encroachment of dark forces.

The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland

He stood among a crowd at Dromahair;
His heart hung all upon a silken dress,
And he had known at last some tenderness,
Before earth took him to her stony care;
But when a man poured fish into a pile,
It seemed they raised their little silver heads,
And sang what gold morning or evening sheds
Upon a woven world-forgotten isle
Where people love beside the ravelled seas;
That time can never mar a lover's vows
Under that woven changeless roof of boughs:
The singing shook him out of his new ease.

He wandered by the sands of Lissadell;
His mind ran all on money cares and fears,
And he had known at last some prudent years
Before they heaped his grave under the hill;
But while he passed before a plashy place,
A lug-worm with its grey and muddy mouth
Sang that somewhere to north or west or south
There dwelt a gay, exulting, gentle race
Under the golden or the silver skies;
That if a dancer stayed his hungry foot
It seemed the sun and moon were in the fruit:
And at that singing he was no more wise.

He mused beside the well of Scanavin,
He mused upon his mockers: without fail
His sudden vengeance were a country tale,
When earthy night had drunk his body in;
But one small knot-grass growing by the pool
Sang where -- unnecessary cruel voice --
Old silence bids its chosen race rejoice,
Whatever ravelled waters rise and fall
Or stormy silver fret the gold of day,
And midnight there enfold them like a fleece
And lover there by lover be at peace.
The tale drove his fine angry mood away.

He slept under the hill of Lugnagall;
And might have known at last unhaunted sleep
Under that cold and vapour-turbaned steep,
Now that the earth had taken man and all:
Did not the worms that spired about his bones
proclaim with that unwearied, reedy cry
That God has laid His fingers on the sky,
That from those fingers glittering summer runs
Upon the dancer by the dreamless wave.
Why should those lovers that no lovers miss
Dream, until God burn Nature with a kiss?
The man has found no comfort in the grave.

Yeats on Wikipedia

Yeats on


  1. Hi Becky, great blog! I happened upon it while doing research for my new line of Irish authors stationery. Love the concept of food and poetry together! I do "crafts go better with a book" (my idea of Arts & Crafts). Anyway,wanted to let you know that I'm giving you a shout out on my sites.
    BTW, Ezra Pound Cake - mwahahahahah! :)

  2. Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. Welcome to the blog -- I look forward to checking out yours after I get out from under my back-from-vacation inbox nightmare! :)