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The Municipal Gallery Revisited


Around me the images of thirty years:
An ambush; pilgrims at the water-side;
Casement upon trial, half hidden by the bars,
Guarded; Griffith staring in hysterical pride;
Kevin O'Higgins' countenance that wears
A gentle questioning look that cannot hide
A soul incapable of remorse or rest;
A revolutionary soldier kneeling to be blessed;


An Abbot or Archbishop with an upraised hand
Blessing the Tricolour.
'This is not,' I say, 'The dead Ireland of my youth, but an Ireland The poets have imagined, terrible and gay.
' Before a woman's portrait suddenly I stand, Beautiful and gentle in her Venetian way.
I met her all but fifty years ago For twenty minutes in some studio.
III Heart-smitten with emotion I Sink down, My heart recovering with covered eyes; Wherever I had looked I had looked upon My permanent or impermanent images: Augusta Gregory's son; her sister's son, Hugh Lane, 'onlie begetter' of all these; Hazel Lavery living and dying, that tale As though some ballad-singer had sung it all; IV Mancini's portrait of Augusta Gregory, 'Greatest since Rembrandt,' according to John Synge; A great ebullient portrait certainly; But where is the brush that could show anything Of all that pride and that humility? And I am in despair that time may bring Approved patterns of women or of men But not that selfsame excellence again.
V My mediaeval knees lack health until they bend, But in that woman, in that household where Honour had lived so long, all lacking found.
Childless I thought, 'My children may find here Deep-rooted things,' but never foresaw its end, And now that end has come I have not wept; No fox can foul the lair the badger swept - VI (An image out of Spenser and the common tongue).
John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought All that we did, all that we said or sang Must come from contact with the soil, from that Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong.
We three alone in modern times had brought Everything down to that sole test again, Dream of the noble and the beggar-man.
VII And here's John Synge himself, that rooted man, 'Forgetting human words,' a grave deep face.
You that would judge me, do not judge alone This book or that, come to this hallowed place Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon; Ireland's history in their lineaments trace; Think where man's glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was I had such friends.

by William Butler Yeats
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