What shall I do with this absurdity - O heart, O troubled heart - this caricature, Decrepit age that has been tied to me As to a dog's tail? Never had I more Excited, passionate, fantastical Imagination, nor an ear and eye That more expected the impossible - No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly, Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back And had the livelong summer day to spend. It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack, Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend Until imagination, ear and eye, Can be content with argument and deal In abstract things; or be derided by A sort of battered kettle at the heel.
I pace upon the battlements and stare On the foundations of a house, or where Tree, like a sooty finger, starts from the earth; And send imagination forth Under the day's declining beam, and call Images and memories From ruin or from ancient trees, For I would ask a question of them all.
Beyond that ridge lived Mrs. French, and once When every silver candlestick or sconce Lit up the dark mahogany and the wine. A serving-man, that could divine That most respected lady's every wish, Ran and with the garden shears Clipped an insolent farmer's ears And brought them in a little covered dish.
Some few remembered still when I was young A peasant girl commended by a Song, Who'd lived somewhere upon that rocky place, And praised the colour of her face, And had the greater joy in praising her, Remembering that, if walked she there, Farmers jostled at the fair So great a glory did the song confer.
And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes, Or else by toasting her a score of times, Rose from the table and declared it right To test their fancy by their sight; But they mistook the brightness of the moon For the prosaic light of day - Music had driven their wits astray - And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone.
Strange, but the man who made the song was blind; Yet, now I have considered it, I find That nothing strange; the tragedy began With Homer that was a blind man, And Helen has all living hearts betrayed. O may the moon and sunlight seem One inextricable beam, For if I triumph I must make men mad.
And I myself created Hanrahan And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages. Caught by an old man's juggleries He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro And had but broken knees for hire And horrible splendour of desire; I thought it all out twenty years ago:
Good fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn; And when that ancient ruffian's turn was on He so bewitched the cards under his thumb That all but the one card became A pack of hounds and not a pack of cards, And that he changed into a hare. Hanrahan rose in frenzy there And followed up those baying creatures towards -
O towards I have forgotten what - enough! I must recall a man that neither love Nor music nor an enemy's clipped ear Could, he was so harried, cheer; A figure that has grown so fabulous There's not a neighbour left to say When he finished his dog's day: An ancient bankrupt master of this house.
Before that ruin came, for centuries, Rough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs, And certain men-at-arms there were Whose images, in the Great Memory stored, Come with loud cry and panting breast To break upon a sleeper's rest While their great wooden dice beat on the board.
As I would question all, come all who can; Come old, necessitous. half-mounted man; And bring beauty's blind rambling celebrant; The red man the juggler sent Through God-forsaken meadows; Mrs. French, Gifted with so fine an ear; The man drowned in a bog's mire, When mocking Muses chose the country wench.
Did all old men and women, rich and poor, Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door, Whether in public or in secret rage As I do now against old age? But I have found an answer in those eyes That are impatient to be gone; Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan, For I need all his mighty memories.
Old lecher with a love on every wind, Bring up out of that deep considering mind All that you have discovered in the grave, For it is certain that you have Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing plunge, lured by a softening eye, Or by a touch or a sigh, Into the labyrinth of another's being;
Does the imagination dwell the most Upon a woman won or woman lost? If on the lost, admit you turned aside From a great labyrinth out of pride, Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought Or anything called conscience once; And that if memory recur, the sun's Under eclipse and the day blotted out.
It is time that I wrote my will; I choose upstanding men That climb the streams until The fountain leap, and at dawn Drop their cast at the side Of dripping stone; I declare They shall inherit my pride, The pride of people that were Bound neither to Cause nor to State. Neither to slaves that were spat on, Nor to the tyrants that spat, The people of Burke and of Grattan That gave, though free to refuse - pride, like that of the morn, When the headlong light is loose, Or that of the fabulous horn, Or that of the sudden shower When all streams are dry, Or that of the hour When the swan must fix his eye Upon a fading gleam, Float out upon a long Last reach of glittering stream And there sing his last song. And I declare my faith: I mock plotinus' thought And cry in plato's teeth, Death and life were not Till man made up the whole, Made lock, stock and barrel Out of his bitter soul, Aye, sun and moon and star, all, And further add to that That, being dead, we rise, Dream and so create Translunar paradise. I have prepared my peace With learned Italian things And the proud stones of Greece, Poet's imaginings And memories of love, Memories of the words of women, All those things whereof Man makes a superhuman, Mirror-resembling dream.
As at the loophole there The daws chatter and scream, And drop twigs layer upon layer. When they have mounted up, The mother bird will rest On their hollow top, And so warm her wild nest.
I leave both faith and pride To young upstanding men Climbing the mountain-side, That under bursting dawn They may drop a fly; Being of that metal made Till it was broken by This sedentary trade.
Now shall I make my soul, Compelling it to study In a learned school Till the wreck of body, Slow decay of blood, Testy delirium Or dull decrepitude, Or what worse evil come - The death of friends, or death Of every brilliant eye That made a catch in the breath - Seem but the clouds of the sky When the horizon fades; Or a bird's sleepy cry Among the deepening shades.