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

33. Ego Dominus Tuus

Hic. ON the grey sand beside the shallow stream

Under your old wind-beaten tower, where still

A lamp burns on beside the open book

That Michael Robartes left, you walk in the moon

And though you have passed the best of life still trace

Enthralled by the unconquerable delusion

Magical shapes.

Ille. By the help of an image

I call to my own opposite, summon all

That I have handled least, least looked upon.

Hic. And I would find myself and not an image.

Ille. That is our modern hope and by its light

We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind

And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;

Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush

We are but critics, or but half create,

Timid, entangled, empty and abashed

Lacking the countenance of our friends.

Hic. And yet

The chief imagination of Christendom

Dante Alighieri, so utterly found himself

That he has made that hollow face of his

More plain to the mind’s eye than any face

But that of Christ.

Ille. And did he find himself,

Or was the hunger that had made it hollow

A hunger for the apple on the bough

Most out of reach? and is that spectral image

The man that Lapo and that Guido knew?

I think he fashioned from his opposite

An image that might have been a stony face,

Staring upon a bedouin’s horse-hair roof

From doored and windowed cliff, or half upturned

Among the coarse grass and the camel dung.

He set his chisel to the hardest stone.

Being mocked by Guido for his lecherous life,

Derided and deriding, driven out

To climb that stair and eat that bitter bread,

He found the unpersuadable justice, he found

The most exalted lady loved by a man.

Hic. Yet surely there are men who have made their art

Out of no tragic war, lovers of life,

Impulsive men that look for happiness

And sing when they have found it.

Ille. No, not sing,

For those that love the world serve it in action,

Grow rich, popular and full of influence,

And should they paint or write still it is action:

The struggle of the fly in marmalade.

The rhetorician would deceive his neighbours,

The sentimentalist himself; while art

Is but a vision of reality.

What portion in the world can the artist have

Who has awakened from the common dream

But dissipation and despair?

Hic. And yet

No one denies to Keats love of the world;

Remember his deliberate happiness.

Ille. His art is happy but who knows his mind?

I see a schoolboy when I think of him,

With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window,

For certainly he sank into his grave

His senses and his heart unsatisfied,

And made—being poor, ailing and ignorant,

Shut out from all the luxury of the world,

The coarse-bred son of a livery stablekeeper—

Luxuriant song.

Hic. Why should you leave the lamp

Burning alone beside an open book

And trace these characters upon the sands;

A style is found by sedentary toil

And by the imitation of great masters.

Ille. Because I seek an image, not a book.

Those men that in their writings are most wise

Own nothing but their blind, stupefied hearts.

I call to the mysterious one who yet

Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream

And look most like me, being indeed my double,

And prove of all imaginable things

The most unlike, being my anti-self,

And standing by these characters disclose

All that I seek; and whisper it as though

He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud

Their momentary cries before it is dawn,

Would carry it away to blasphemous men.