Home  »  The Wild Swans at Coole  »  31. In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939). The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.

31. In Memory of Alfred Pollexfen

FIVE-AND-TWENTY years have gone

Since old William Pollexfen

Laid his strong bones down in death

By his wife Elizabeth

In the grey stone tomb he made.

And after twenty years they laid

In that tomb by him and her,

His son George, the astrologer;

And Masons drove from miles away

To scatter the Acacia spray

Upon a melancholy man

Who had ended where his breath began.

Many a son and daughter lies

Far from the customary skies,

The Mall and Eades’s grammar school,

In London or in Liverpool;

But where is laid the sailor John?

That so many lands had known:

Quiet lands or unquiet seas

Where the Indians trade or Japanese.

He never found his rest ashore,

Moping for one voyage more.

Where have they laid the sailor John?

And yesterday the youngest son,

A humorous, unambitious man,

Was buried near the astrologer;

And are we now in the tenth year?

Since he, who had been contented long,

A nobody in a great throng,

Decided he would journey home,

Now that his fiftieth year had come,

And ‘Mr. Alfred’ be again

Upon the lips of common men

Who carried in their memory

His childhood and his family.

At all these death-beds women heard

A visionary white sea-bird

Lamenting that a man should die;

And with that cry I have raised my cry.