Yeats 27

 

‘Once more the storm is howling, and half hid

Under this cradle-hood and coverlid

My child sleeps on.’ —W.B. Yeats

Hush, little baby, be quiet as a mouse,
The wind is howling round this little house,
But here inside we are cosy and warm,
And I will keep you from every harm.

Though there will be harm, and I will not
be able to keep you safe always.
There will be fears I cannot shake out,
Like crumbs from a table cloth. Never mind
I will hold your hand when you are afraid.

I made a blanket from starlight and mist
For you to hold tight in your little plump fist,
A sea of dreams is a soft place to float,
So I set you to sail in a moonbeam boat.

The time will come when I wave goodbye,
and you set sail in the boat you have made,
far away, seeking your own adventure. Keep
a space for me in whatever land you find,
Remember how I stood on the shore,
Waving and waving, until you were gone.

Night is the time for dreaming and sleep,
So snuggle down, dear, in your rose petal sheets,
And dream of sunshine, and blue skies and laughter,
And wake up bright in the morning after.

I must remember that my dreams are my dreams,
and that you will have your own. There are places
in your mind I will never know. I can feed you,
and clothe you, and love you, and teach you,
but you must be free to dream your own dreams,
and find your own path. I only hold you for
a little while, and my hope is for you to be free.

Hush little baby, be quiet as a mouse,
The wind is howling round this little house,
But here inside, it is just us two,
Drifting to sleep in our safe little room.

Hush, little baby, you are only this small
for such a short time. I must dote on you
while I can, store up your baby scent of milk
and soap, and you sweet little toes, and your
calm gaze at this strange world, and your smile
when you see me. Hush, little one, be still in
my arms for this little while, this fragment of time.

 

Day 27, almost at the end of this month of Yeats. Thank you, Jane, for another lovely prompt.

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November with Yeats, Day 26

‘I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea!’ W.B. Yeats

 

From here the sea is a pewter plate
running between the headlands.
The gorse is bittersweet yellow,
and the shore rocks are grey.
We can see the gannets gather,
a chaos of white, whirling wings,
and hear the clear crack sound
as they hit the water.

There are mackerel there.

The gannets are wild in their greed,
plunging again and again –
each bird a blade. If we
were fishermen we’d follow them,
sharing the plunder.

But we are just spectators, feet planted
on the land. We are distanced,
watching the rising, falling,

sharing this scene.

There is no gentleness in these
white birds, just a mad
hunger, death streamlined,
folded into those narrow wings,
refracted in the shift
between the elements.

No gentleness, but beauty
is sometimes fierce, and strange,
and love is painful sometimes.

 

November with Yeats – day 26. Thank you, Jane, for curating these wonderful prompts. Nearly there!

November Yeats 25

 

‘And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.’—W.B. Yeats

 

If I were a silver fish

I would dart through the dark reeds

seeking you, following you

wherever you chose to lead

 

Or I would suddenly twist

in the clear water, sunlight

shafting down, and, laughing, I

would lead you for a little while

 

and in the evening, when the

stream water glows like fire, we

would rest, side by side, just touching,

yin and yang, we would fall asleep

 

Day 25 of this cold, bleak November, brightened considerably by Jane Dougherty’s Yeats fiesta. 

November Yeats 24

‘We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead; ‘ —W.B. Yeats

Their dreams were small ones – just for ordinary
lives, lived out in ordinary ways,
no river of excitement, just a gentle
stream of endless, ordinary days

They carried those dreams with them, held them
firmly, under shirts, next to the skin,
with other precious things, the things they kept,
a holy medal, or a mother’s ring;

as if those things would warm them, in the cold,
wild rocking boats, pressed tight,
hip against hip, arms wrapped around each other,
in all the dirty dangers of the night.

Sometimes small dreams are still too big to bear,
small dreams can be too heavy to hold on,
and when the waves are rising up around you,
sometimes you find that all your dreams are gone.

Their dreams were small ones:

Ordinary lives
lived out in peace, in ordinary ways.

<Jane gives us another Yeats quote, from Easter 1916. So many people have died for their dreams. 

November with Yeats 22

 

‘I wander by the edge
Of this desolate lake
Where wind cries in the sedge:’ —W.B. Yeats

Standing here, at the edge of the lake

I am standing at the edge of the world.

 

The grass is summer-bleached,

Rattles in the wind like an old woman’s hair,

And the water is dark – darker

Than any domestic thing,

Darker than any secret.

 

Back in June, the water caught the sky

Like a woman catching her lover’s gaze,

And there were skylarks

 

But now the water is a pool of night

In this grey, empty morning,

And there are no more birds.

 

The wind that’s blowing winter in

Has blown them all away,

Down to lower ground,

Swept away like stories.

 

Day 22 of a November with Yeats. It’s bleak and windy today, you might guess that from this poem. 

Deer – November Yeats 21

‘…by water among the trees
The delicate-stepping stag and his lady sigh’ —W.B. Yeats

 

The deer come down to the water

in ones and twos, stepping so lightly

they hardly bend the grass.

In the dappling light

their coats are leaf shadowed,

sun flecked. They look around,

always prey,

muscle shuddering under skin,

as if they could suddenly

dart away, a sideways

scrabble step flurry,

power in fear.

November Yeats – 20

This quote is from ‘The Old Age of Queen Maeve’.

‘out of the dark air over her head there came
A murmur of soft words and meeting lips.’—W.B. Yeats

In this shuffling, fumbling old age,
Of fading sight, and hollowed breasts,
And swollen knuckles, a seat
By the fireside is poor compensation
For the wild ride into battle,
The heat of a horse between her thighs
And a spear in her hand.

If she was kissed once,
It was not enough, and if
They sang of her, and her great deeds,
She called for more,
And now those songs echo
Though the singers are gone.

She did not plan to end her days
Like this – hands shaking, dreaming
Of the past. She planned to stay
Forever young, fierce warrior,
Striding through life, scowling
At weakness. Instead she nods
By the fireside, dreaming
Of days long gone – whispers
Of men she led to death,
Of old glories. This new enemy
Is her own body,
Not to be defeated,
And time has worn away
The gold, tarnished
Her breastplate, blunted the spear,
And the past is far away.

 

For Jane. Ten more days left after this. Bring it on.

November Yeats 19

‘We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,

The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,

Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you,

Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.’—W.B. Yeats
I am of the ones who have laboured here,
Who have carried the stones with their hands,
Stones grey as the sky, grey as the sea,
Brought to this place, where they stand
Looking out to the west.

We are those who carried them here,
In the cold, when the skin of our fingers split,
In the heat, when our hands slipped with sweat,
To this place, this gorse clouded summit,
Looking out to the west

And we did it for love of the one
Who rides the grey sea, as he might ride
A grey horse, or a goose might spread
Broad wings to travel the great grey skies,
Looking out to the west.

In our love, we have built this place,
As a beacon, a hearth, as a tomb, as a door
Waiting for sight of him who is gone,
Hoping in vain, for he comes no more,
Looking out to the west.

One by one, we have left this high place,
Going down to where our own fires burn,
Or down to the dark, deep places,
Through the doorway from whence none returns,
Looking out to the west.

And now there is nobody left but me,
The first to come and the last to stay,
Faithful to the force that moved me then,
Waiting for time to wear me away,
Looking out to the west.

 

Welcome to Day 19 of the Yeats November series, prompted by Jane Dougherty. 

November Yeats 18

 

‘The dews drop slowly and dreams gather;’ —W.B. Yeats

 

I walked at dawn with a silver cup

and hoped that I might see my love

in the crystal dew

 

I gathered dreams in a dark bouquet,

to weave a net to make him stay,

and love me too

 

I dream I hold him in my arms

with his wild blue eyes and all his charms

When I am sleeping,

 

But my love has spilt the crystal dew

And torn all of my dreams in two

and left me weeping

 

I’ve missed a couple of days BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER – because this is just a lovely way of spending time in November. Pure pleasure, no pressure. Thank you, Jane, for another lovely prompt. 

 

Yeats #14

‘That you, in the dim coming times,
May know how my heart went with them
After the red-rose-bordered hem.’ —W.B. Yeats

And afterwards, all he could say

was that her hem swirled as she walked

and that swirl swept his heart away,

and he shrugged as he talked,

helplessly in the grip of something

he couldn’t account for, except

that his heart was set dancing

by the swirl of her skirt as she left,

and his dancing heart had to follow

the path that she took, even though

she led him by hill and by hollow,

and where wild streams flow,

and she led him by day and by night,

where the birds fly high,

and she led him in the moonlight

to where the rivers die

in the great white roaring ocean,

and the  fierce gulls whirl and scream,

and she left him alone on the naked strand,

a man who had followed a dream.

 

Another day, another Yeats quote from Jane Dougherty.