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Three Early Selections by W. B. Yeats


Earthlore Art: Wandering Aengus excerpt by Yeats

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T
he three selections presented here are from the book The Wind Among the Reeds. They were originally presented not as a particular or fair representation of Yeats, but to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of their first publication. As they are from the poet's early works, it seemed also an appropriate choice for opening his portfolio at Lore of Poetry.

Evident in each of the three poems is the poet's early manner, much influenced by traditional lore and legend of Ireland.

Previous works also based within Irish memory include; The Wanderings of Oisin (1889), Celtic Twilight (1893) and The Secret Rose (1897).

Earthlore Imagery: William Butler Yeats W. B. Yeats
Circa 1890s

'During all these centuries the Celt has kept in his heart some affinity with the almighty beings ruling in the unseen, once so evident to the heroic races who preceded him. His legends and faery tales have connected his soul with the inner lives of air and water and earth, and they in turn have kept his heart sweet with hidden influence.'

- George W. Russell



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Earthlore Ireland Hearth Tale: Oisin and Niam



William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)



The Everlasting Voices

(1899)

O SWEET everlasting Voices, be still;
Go to the guards of the heavenly fold
And bid them wander obeying your will,
Flame under flame, till Time be no more;
Have you not heard that our hearts are old,
That you call in birds, in wind on the hill,
In shaken boughs, in tide on the shore?
O sweet everlasting Voices, be still.






The Song of Wandering Aengus

(1899)

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among the long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.





The Hosting of the Sidhe

(1899)

The host is riding from Knocknare
And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;
Caolte tossing his burning hair
And Niamh calling Away, come away:
Empty your heart of its mortal dream.
The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round,
Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound,
Our breasts are heaving, our eyes are a-gleam,
Our arms are waving, our lips are apart;
And if any gaze on our rushing band,
We come between him and the deed of his hand,
We come between him and the hope of his heart.

The host is rushing 'twixt night and day,
And where is there hope or deed as fair?
Caolte tossing his burning hair,
And Niamh calling Away, come away.



William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865 - January 18, 1939)

YeatsWidely recognized as one of the nobles of twentieth century poetry, Yeats was born in Dublin, where he was raised within an educated and creative environment. His father was the painter John Butler Yeats, and William also studied art, both in Dublin and London. During holiday, his family would often visit Sligo, in the west country. The rich traditional lore of the region was to prove a strong influence upon the poet for the remainder of his life.

YeatsAt the age of twenty two, William moved with his family to England, where he lived for nearly a decade, returning to Ireland in 1896. While his early works are strongly rooted in traditional lore and symbolism, Yeats became deeply involved with the politics of his era and much of his later work centered around themes of Irish nationalism. During the nineteen twenties the writer became politician and served in the Senate of the newly formed Irish Free State. In 1923 William Butler Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.



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