September 2013 – W.B. Yeats

September 1913 
 
W.B. Yates

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save;
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry `Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son’:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.


In one of his most celebrated works, Yeats laments the death of Ireland’s nobility and honour; seemingly replaced by a less tangible and decidedly less moral materialism. 

This poem was written to mark the occasion of the Dublin Lockout (details of the centenary in the Independent HERE) and to protest the Dublin Corporation’s refusal to house a collection of art belonging to Sir Hugh Lane (for more details see this excellent article on the Irish Times site HERE). 

A Poetry Moment

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About Drneevil

Blogger, podcaster, reader, knitter. Founder of Leeds Book Club; host of Culturally Fixated; co-host of Conversations with Geek People; tech support for Leeds Browncoats.

Posted on September 1, 2013, in All Posts, Avid Reader, Poetry, W.B. Yates. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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