I Swear by what the Sages spoke Round the Mareotic Lake That the Witch of Atlas knew, Spoke and set the cocks a-crow. Swear by those horsemen, by those women, Complexion and form prove superhuman, That pale, long visaged company That airs an immortality Completeness of their passions won; Now they ride the wintry dawn Where Ben Bulben sets the scene. Here's the gist of what they mean. II Many times man lives and dies Between his two eternities, That of race and that of soul, And ancient Ireland knew it all. Whether man dies in his bed Or the rifle knocks him dead, A brief parting from those dear Is the worst man has to fear. Though grave-diggers' toil is long, Sharp their spades, their muscle strong, They but thrust their buried men Back in the human mind again. III You that Mitchel's prayer have heard `Send war in our time, O Lord!' Know that when all words are said And a man is fighting mad, Something drops from eyes long blind He completes his partial mind, For an instant stands at ease, Laughs aloud, his heart at peace, Even the wisest man grows tense With some sort of violence Before he can accomplish fate Know his work or choose his mate. IV Poet and sculptor do the work Nor let the modish painter shirk What his great forefathers did, Bring the soul of man to God, Make him fill the cradles right. Measurement began our might: Forms a stark Egyptian thought, Forms that gentler Phidias wrought. Michael Angelo left a proof On the Sistine Chapel roof, Where but half-awakened Adam Can disturb globe-trotting Madam Till her bowels are in heat, Proof that there's a purpose set Before the secret working mind: Profane perfection of mankind. Quattrocento put in paint, On backgrounds for a God or Saint, Gardens where a soul's at ease; Where everything that meets the eye Flowers and grass and cloudless sky Resemble forms that are, or seem When sleepers wake and yet still dream, And when it's vanished still declare, With only bed and bedstead there, That Heavens had opened. mmmmmmmmmmmmGyres run on; When that greater dream had gone Calvert and Wilson, Blake and Claude Prepared a rest for the people of God, Palmer's phrase, but after that Confusion fell upon our thought. V Irish poets learn your trade Sing whatever is well made, Scorn the sort now growing up All out of shape from toe to top, Their unremembering hearts and heads Base-born products of base beds. Sing the peasantry, and then Hard-riding country gentlemen, The holiness of monks, and after Porter-drinkers' randy laughter; Sing the lords and ladies gay That were beaten into the clay Through seven heroic centuries; Cast your mind on other days That we in coming days may be Still the indomitable Irishry. VI Under bare Ben Bulben's head In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid, An ancestor was rector there Long years ago; a church stands near, By the road an ancient Cross. No marble, no conventional phrase, On limestone quarried near the spot By his command these words are cut: mmmmmCast a cold eye mmmmmOn life, on death. mmmmmHorseman, pass by!
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless words, Or have lingered awhile and said Polite meaningless words, And thought before I had done Of a mocking tale or a gibe To please a companion Around the fire at the club, Being certain that they and I But lived where motley is worn: All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. That woman's days were spent In ignorant good-will, Her nights in argument Until her voice grew shrill. What voice more sweet than hers When, young and beautiful, She rode to harriers? This man had kept a school And rode our wingèd horse; This other his helper and friend Was coming into his force; He might have won fame in the end, So sensitive his nature seemed, So daring and sweet his thought. This other man I had dreamed A drunken, vainglorious lout. He had done most bitter wrong To some who are near my heart, Yet I number him in the song; He, too, has resigned his part In the casual comedy; He, too, has been changed in his turn, Transformed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. Hearts with one purpose alone Through summer and winter seem Enchanted to a stone To trouble the living stream. The horse that comes from the road, The rider, the birds that range From cloud to tumbling cloud, Minute by minute they change; A shadow of cloud on the stream Changes minute by minute; A horse-hoof slides on the brim, And a horse plashes within it; The long-legged moor-hens dive, And hens to moor-cocks call; Minute by minute they live: The stone's in the midst of all. Too long a sacrifice Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? That is Heaven's part, our part To murmur name upon name, As a mother names her child When sleep at last has come On limbs that had run wild. What is it but nightfall? No, no, not night but death; Was it needless death after all? For England may keep faith For all that is done and said. We know their dream; enough To know they dreamed and are dead; And what if excess of love Bewildered them till they died? I write it out in a verse— MacDonagh and MacBride And Connolly and Pearse Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.