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Poem by William Butler Yeats
I BETWEEN extremities Man runs his course; A brand, or flaming breath. Comes to destroy All those antinomies Of day and night; The body calls it death, The heart remorse. But if these be right What is joy? II A tree there is that from its topmost bough Is half all glittering flame and half all green Abounding foliage moistened with the dew; And half is half and yet is all the scene; And half and half consume what they renew, And he that Attis' image hangs between That staring fury and the blind lush leaf May know not what he knows, but knows not grief III Get all the gold and silver that you can, Satisfy ambition, animate The trivial days and ram them with the sun, And yet upon these maxims meditate: All women dote upon an idle man Although their children need a rich estate; No man has ever lived that had enough Of children's gratitude or woman's love. No longer in Lethean foliage caught Begin the preparation for your death And from the fortieth winter by that thought Test every work of intellect or faith, And everything that your own hands have wrought And call those works extravagance of breath That are not suited for such men as come proud, open-eyed and laughing to the tomb. IV My fiftieth year had come and gone, I sat, a solitary man, In a crowded London shop, An open book and empty cup On the marble table-top. While on the shop and street I gazed My body of a sudden blazed; And twenty minutes more or less It seemed, so great my happiness, That I was blessed and could bless. Although the summer Sunlight gild Cloudy leafage of the sky, Or wintry moonlight sink the field In storm-scattered intricacy, I cannot look thereon, Responsibility so weighs me down. Things said or done long years ago, Or things I did not do or say But thought that I might say or do, Weigh me down, and not a day But something is recalled, My conscience or my vanity appalled. A rivery field spread out below, An odour of the new-mown hay In his nostrils, the great lord of Chou Cried, casting off the mountain snow, 'Let all things pass away.' Wheels by milk-white asses drawn Where Babylon or Nineveh Rose; some conquer drew rein And cried to battle-weary men, 'Let all things pass away.' From man's blood-sodden heart are sprung Those branches of the night and day Where the gaudy moon is hung. What's the meaning of all song? 'Let all things pass away.' VII The Soul. Seek out reality, leave things that seem. The Heart. What, be a singer born and lack a theme? The Soul. Isaiah's coal, what more can man desire? The Heart. Struck dumb in the simplicity of fire! The Soul. Look on that fire, salvation walks within. The Heart. What theme had Homer but original sin? VIII Must we part, Von Hugel, though much alike, for we Accept the miracles of the saints and honour sanctity? The body of Saint Teresa lies undecayed in tomb, Bathed in miraculous oil, sweet odours from it come, Healing from its lettered slab. Those self-same hands perchance Eternalised the body of a modern saint that once Had scooped out pharaoh's mummy. I -- though heart might find relief Did I become a Christian man and choose for my belief What seems most welcome in the tomb -- play a pre- destined part. Homer is my example and his unchristened heart. The lion and the honeycomb, what has Scripture said? So get you gone, Von Hugel, though with blessings on your head.
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats's other poems:
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