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Meditations In Time Of Civil War

Written by: William Butler Yeats | Biography
 | Quotes (173) |
 I.
Ancestral Houses Surely among a rich man's flowering lawns, Amid the rustle of his planted hills, Life overflows without ambitious pains; And rains down life until the basin spills, And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains As though to choose whatever shape it wills And never stoop to a mechanical Or servile shape, at others' beck and call.
Mere dreams, mere dreams! Yet Homer had not Sung Had he not found it certain beyond dreams That out of life's own self-delight had sprung The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams, And not a fountain, were the symbol which Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.
Some violent bitter man, some powerful man Called architect and artist in, that they, Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone The sweetness that all longed for night and day, The gentleness none there had ever known; But when the master's buried mice can play.
And maybe the great-grandson of that house, For all its bronze and marble, 's but a mouse.
O what if gardens where the peacock strays With delicate feet upon old terraces, Or else all Juno from an urn displays Before the indifferent garden deities; O what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease And Childhood a delight for every sense, But take our greatness with our violence? What if the glory of escutcheoned doors, And buildings that a haughtier age designed, The pacing to and fro on polished floors Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined With famous portraits of our ancestors; What if those things the greatest of mankind Consider most to magnify, or to bless, But take our greatness with our bitterness? II.
My House An ancient bridge, and a more ancient tower, A farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall, An acre of stony ground, Where the symbolic rose can break in flower, Old ragged elms, old thorns innumerable, The sound of the rain or sound Of every wind that blows; The stilted water-hen Crossing Stream again Scared by the splashing of a dozen cows; A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone, A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth, A candle and written page.
Il Penseroso's Platonist toiled on In some like chamber, shadowing forth How the daemonic rage Imagined everything.
Benighted travellers From markets and from fairs Have seen his midnight candle glimmering.
Two men have founded here.
A man-at-arms Gathered a score of horse and spent his days In this tumultuous spot, Where through long wars and sudden night alarms His dwinding score and he seemed castaways Forgetting and forgot; And I, that after me My bodily heirs may find, To exalt a lonely mind, Befitting emblems of adversity.
III.
My Table Two heavy trestles, and a board Where Sato's gift, a changeless sword, By pen and paper lies, That it may moralise My days out of their aimlessness.
A bit of an embroidered dress Covers its wooden sheath.
Chaucer had not drawn breath When it was forged.
In Sato's house, Curved like new moon, moon-luminous It lay five hundred years.
Yet if no change appears No moon; only an aching heart Conceives a changeless work of art.
Our learned men have urged That when and where 'twas forged A marvellous accomplishment, In painting or in pottery, went From father unto son And through the centuries ran And seemed unchanging like the sword.
Soul's beauty being most adored, Men and their business took Me soul's unchanging look; For the most rich inheritor, Knowing that none could pass Heaven's door, That loved inferior art, Had such an aching heart That he, although a country's talk For silken clothes and stately walk.
Had waking wits; it seemed Juno's peacock screamed.
IV.
My Descendants Having inherited a vigorous mind From my old fathers, I must nourish dreams And leave a woman and a man behind As vigorous of mind, and yet it seems Life scarce can cast a fragrance on the wind, Scarce spread a glory to the morning beams, But the torn petals strew the garden plot; And there's but common greenness after that.
And what if my descendants lose the flower Through natural declension of the soul, Through too much business with the passing hour, Through too much play, or marriage with a fool? May this laborious stair and this stark tower Become a roofless min that the owl May build in the cracked masonry and cry Her desolation to the desolate sky.
The primum Mobile that fashioned us Has made the very owls in circles move; And I, that count myself most prosperous, Seeing that love and friendship are enough, For an old neighbour's friendship chose the house And decked and altered it for a girl's love, And know whatever flourish and decline These stones remain their monument and mine.
V.
The Road at My Door An affable Irregular, A heavily-built Falstaffian man, Comes cracking jokes of civil war As though to die by gunshot were The finest play under the sun.
A brown Lieutenant and his men, Half dressed in national uniform, Stand at my door, and I complain Of the foul weather, hail and rain, A pear-tree broken by the storm.
I count those feathered balls of soot The moor-hen guides upon the stream.
To silence the envy in my thought; And turn towards my chamber, caught In the cold snows of a dream.
VI.
The Stare's Nest by My Window The bees build in the crevices Of loosening masonry, and there The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the state.
We are closed in, and the key is turned On our uncertainty; somewhere A man is killed, or a house burned, Yet no clear fact to be discerned: Come build in he empty house of the stare.
A barricade of stone or of wood; Some fourteen days of civil war; Last night they trundled down the road That dead young soldier in his blood: Come build in the empty house of the stare.
We had fed the heart on fantasies, The heart's grown brutal from the fare; More Substance in our enmities Than in our love; O honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the stare.
VII.
I see Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart's Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness I climb to the tower-top and lean upon broken stone, A mist that is like blown snow is sweeping over all, Valley, river, and elms, under the light of a moon That seems unlike itself, that seems unchangeable, A glittering sword out of the east.
A puff of wind And those white glimmering fragments of the mist sweep by.
Frenzies bewilder, reveries perturb the mind; Monstrous familiar images swim to the mind's eye.
'Vengeance upon the murderers,' the cry goes up, 'Vengeance for Jacques Molay.
' In cloud-pale rags, or in lace, The rage-driven, rage-tormented, and rage-hungry troop, Trooper belabouring trooper, biting at arm or at face, Plunges towards nothing, arms and fingers spreading wide For the embrace of nothing; and I, my wits astray Because of all that senseless tumult, all but cried For vengeance on the murderers of Jacques Molay.
Their legs long, delicate and slender, aquamarine their eyes, Magical unicorns bear ladies on their backs.
The ladies close their musing eyes.
No prophecies, Remembered out of Babylonian almanacs, Have closed the ladies' eyes, their minds are but a pool Where even longing drowns under its own excess; Nothing but stillness can remain when hearts are full Of their own sweetness, bodies of their loveliness.
The cloud-pale unicorns, the eyes of aquamarine, The quivering half-closed eyelids, the rags of cloud or of lace, Or eyes that rage has brightened, arms it has made lean, Give place to an indifferent multitude, give place To brazen hawks.
Nor self-delighting reverie, Nor hate of what's to come, nor pity for what's gone, Nothing but grip of claw, and the eye's complacency, The innumerable clanging wings that have put out the moon.
I turn away and shut the door, and on the stair Wonder how many times I could have proved my worth In something that all others understand or share; But O! ambitious heart, had such a proof drawn forth A company of friends, a conscience set at ease, It had but made us pine the more.
The abstract joy, The half-read wisdom of daemonic images, Suffice the ageing man as once the growing boy.



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