Poems and Drafts – W. B Yeats

Love and Death

Behold the flashing waters,
A cloven, dancing jet,
That from the milk-white marble
For ever foam and fret;
Far off in drowsy valleys
Where the meadow-saffrons blow,
The feet of summer dabble
In their coiling calm and slow.
The banks are worn for ever
By a people sadly gay:
A Titan, with loud laughter,
Made them of fire and clay.
Go ask the springing flowers,
And the flowing air above,
What are the twin-born waters,
And they’ll answer Death and Love.

With wreaths of withered flowers
Two lonely spirits wait,
With wreaths of withered flowers,
‘Fore paradise’s gate.
They may not pass the portal,
Poor earth-enkindled pair,
Though sad is many a spirit
To pass and leave them there
Still staring at their flowers,
That dull and faded are.
If one should rise beside thee,
The other is not far.
Go ask the youngest angel,
She will say with bated breath,
By the door of Mary’s garden
Are the spirits Love and Death.

 

Love Song
(From the Gaelic)

My love, we will go, we will go, I and you,
And away in the woods we will scatter the dew;
And the salmon behold, and the ousel too,
My love, we will hear, I and you, we will hear,
The calling afar of the doe and the deer.
And the bird in the branches will cry for us clear,
And the cuckoo unseen in his festival mood;
And death, oh my fair one, will never come near
In the bosom afar of the fragrant wood.

 

The Danaan Quicken Tree

It is said that an enchanted tree grew once on the little lake-island of Innisfree, and that its berries were, according to one legend, poisonous to mortals, and according to another, able to endow them with more than mortal powers. Both legends say that the berries were the food of the ‘Tuatha de Danaan’, or faeries. Quicken is the old Irish name for the mountain ash. The Dark Joan mentioned in the last verse is a famous faery who often goes about the roads disguised as a clutch of chickens. Niam is the famous and beautiful faery who carried Oisin into Faeryland. ‘Aslauga Shee’ means faery host.

Beloved, hear my bitter tale! —
Now making busy with the oar,
Now flinging loose the slanting sail,
I hurried from the woody shore,
And plucked small fruits on Innisfree.
(Ah, mournful Danaan quicken tree!)

A murmuring faery multitude,
When flying to the heart of light
From playing hurley in the wood
With creatures of our heavy night,
A berry threw for me—or thee.
(Ah, mournful Danaan quicken tree!)

And thereon grew a tender root,
And thereon grew a tender stem,
And thereon grew the ruddy fruit
That are a poison to all men
And meat to the Aslauga Shee.
(Ah, mournful Danaan quicken tree!)

If when the battle is half won,
I fling away my sword, blood dim,
Or leave some service all undone,
Beloved, blame the Danaan whim,
And blame the snare they set for me.
(Ah, mournful Danaan quicken tree!)

Cast out all hope, cast out all fear,
And taste with me the faeries’ meat,
For while I blamed them I could hear
Dark Joan call the berries sweet,
Where Niam heads the revelry.
(Ah, mournful Danaan quicken tree!)

 

Against Witchcraft

May this fire have driven out
The Shape-Changers that can put
Ruin on a great king’s house
Until all be ruinous.
Names whereby a man has known
The threshold and the hearthstone,
Gather on the wind and drive
The women none can kiss and thrive,
For they are but a whirling wind,
Out of a memory and mind.
They would make a prince decay
With light images of clay
Planted in the running wave;
Or, for many shapes they have,
They would change them into hounds
Until he had died of his wounds,
Though the change were but a whim;
Or they’d hurl a spell at him,
That he follow with desire
Bodies that can never tire
Or grow kind, for they anoint
All their bodies, joint by joint,
With a miracle-working juice
That is made of out of the grease
Of the ungoverned unicorn.
But the man is thrice forlorn,
Emptied, ruined, wracked, and lost,
That they follow, for at most
They will give him kiss for kiss
While they murmur, ‘After this
Hatred may be sweet to the taste.’
Those wild hands that have embraced
All his body can but shove
At the burning wheel of love
Till the side of hate comes up.
Therefore in this ancient cup
May the sword-blades drink their fill
Of the home-brew there, until
They will have for masters none
But the threshold and hearthstone.

 

Reprisals

Some nineteen German planes, they say,
You had brought down before you died.
We called it a good death. Today
Can ghost or man be satisfied?
Although your last exciting year
Outweighed all other years, you said,
Though battle joy may be so dear
A memory, even to the dead,
It chases other thought away,
Yet rise from your Italian tomb,
Flit to Kiltartan cross and stay
Till certain second thoughts have come
Upon the cause you served that we
Imagined such a fine affair:
Half-drunk or whole-mad soldiery
Are murdering your tenants there.
Men that revere your father yet
Are shot at on the open plain.
Where may new-married women sit
And suckle children now? Armed men
May murder them in passing by
Nor law nor parliament take heed.
Then close your ears with dust and lie
Among the other cheated dead.

 

 

Yeats Variorum EditionThis selection comes from ‘The Variorum of W.B Yeats’ (1940, the latest reprint in 1977) with all these versions being uncollected at Yeats’s death, and (to this editor’s knowledge) uncollected in all newer editions of his poems. ‘Love and Death’ was printed in ‘The Dublin University Review’, May 1885. ‘Love Song’ is one variant from ‘The Irish Fireside’, September 1887. ‘The Danaan Quicken Tree’ was printed in ‘The Bookman’, May 1893. The note, after the title, is Yeats’s own. Readers of Yeats’s plays may recognize the next piece; which was originally published under this title; ‘Against Witchcraft’, in ‘The Shanachie’ in Spring 1906, but is more well known as a slightly emended section from the play ‘On Baille’s Strand’ (text printed, London 1907). ‘Reprisals’ is perhaps the most obviously recognisable to modern readers, being a draft of the poem  ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, and printed in ‘Rann / An Ulster Quarterly of Poetry’, in Autumn, 1948, and again in ‘Icarus’ (Trinity College Dublin), May 1956.

About thefiendjournal

I was born in Blackpool, England and am currently based in Hungary. Poems have been published in magazines in the U.K, Ireland, France, New Zealand, Canada, U.S.A and South Korea. A pamphlet; "MMV", was published in 2008. Thousands of poems have been written in draft form, and multiple books are being planned and edited for future release. As well as editing 'The Fiend' I translate, paint and dabble in photography (images of which have occasionally been used here).
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One Response to Poems and Drafts – W. B Yeats

  1. Wookyung Lee says:

    May the warm winds of heaven
    Blow softly upon your house.
    May the great spirit
    Bless all who enter there.
    May your moccasins
    Make happy tracks
    in many snows,
    and may the rainbow
    Always touch your shoulder.

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