I 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. II 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. III 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. IV 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. 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 dwindling 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 cleat 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.
I 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. II 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. III 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.