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William Butler Yeats: Byzantium

The unpurged images of day recede;

The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed;

Night resonance recedes, night-walkers’ song

After great cathedral gong;

A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains

All that man is,

All mere complexities,

The fury and the mire of human veins.

.

Before me floats an image, man or shade,

Shade more than man, more image than a shade;

For Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth

May unwind the winding path;

A mouth that has no moisture and no breath

Breathless mouths may summon;

I hail the superhuman;

I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

.

Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,

More miracle than bird or handiwork,

Planted on the starlit golden bough,

Can like the cocks of Hades crow,

Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud

In glory of changeless metal

Common bird or petal

And all complexities of mire or blood.

.

At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit

Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,

Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,

Where blood-begotten spirits come

And all complexities of fury leave,

Dying into a dance,

An agony of trance,

An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.

.

Astraddle on the dolphin’s mire and blood,

Spirit after spirit! The smithies break the flood,

The golden smithies of the Emperor!

Marbles of the dancing floor

Break bitter furies of complexity,

Those images that yet

Fresh images beget,

That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.


Public domain

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, writer and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and became a pillar of the Irish literary establishment who helped to found the Abbey Theatre. In his later years he served two terms as a Senator of the Irish Free State.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

5 comments on “William Butler Yeats: Byzantium

  1. Barbara Huntington
    January 20, 2023

    I loved getting lost in this

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    January 20, 2023

    I am rather partial to Yeats.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      January 20, 2023

      When I was young, I lived in Ireland, and he was my favorite poet. I had several of his poems mermorized.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sean Sexton
    January 20, 2023

    And who greater than he!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2023 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry, spirituality and tagged , , .

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