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The Wanderings of Oisin: Book II Analysis



Author: Poetry of William Butler Yeats Type: Poetry Views: 201

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The Wanderings of Oisin1889Now, man of croziers, shadows called our names

And then away, away, like whirling flames;

And now fled by, mist-covered, without sound,

The youth and lady and the deer and hound;

'Gaze no more on the phantoms,' Niamh said,

And kissed my eyes, and, swaying her bright head

And her bright body, sang of faery and man

Before God was or my old line began;

Wars shadowy, vast, exultant; faeries of old

Who wedded men with rings of Druid gold;

And how those lovers never turn their eyes

Upon the life that fades and flickers and dies,

Yet love and kiss on dim shores far away

Rolled round with music of the sighing spray:

Yet sang no more as when, like a brown bee

That has drunk full, she crossed the misty sea

With me in her white arms a hundred years

Before this day; for now the fall of tears

Troubled her song.I do not know if days

Or hours passed by, yet hold the morning rays

Shone many times among the glimmering flowers

Woven into her hair, before dark towers

Rose in the darkness, and the white surf gleamed

About them; and the horse of Faery screamed

And shivered, knowing the Isle of Many Fears,

Nor ceased until white Niamh stroked his ears

And named him by sweet names.A foaming tide

Whitened afar with surge, fan-formed and wide,

Burst from a great door matred by many a blow

From mace and sword and pole-axe, long ago

When gods and giants warred.We rode between

The seaweed-covered pillars; and the green

And surging phosphorus alone gave light

On our dark pathway, till a countless flight

Of moonlit steps glimmered; and left and right

Dark statues glimmered over the pale tide

Upon dark thrones.Between the lids of one

The imaged meteors had flashed and run

And had disported in the stilly jet,

And the fixed stars had dawned and shone and set,

Since God made Time and Death and Sleep:the other

Stretched his long arm to where, a misty smother,

The stream churned, churned, and churned - his lips apart,

As though he told his never-slumbering heart

Of every foamdrop on its misty way.

Tying the horse to his vast foot that lay

Half in the unvesselled sea, we climbed the stair

And climbed so long, I thought the last steps were

Hung from the morning star; when these mild words

Fanned the delighted air like wings of birds:

'My brothers spring out of their beds at morn,

A-murmur like young partridge:with loud horn

They chase the noontide deer;

And when the dew-drowned stars hang in the air

Look to long fishing-lines, or point and pare

An ashen hunting spear.

O sigh, O fluttering sigh, be kind to me;

Flutter along the froth lips of the sea,

And shores the froth lips wet:

And stay a little while, and bid them weep:

Ah, touch their blue-veined eyelids if they sleep,

And shake their coverlet.

When you have told how I weep endlessly,

Flutter along the froth lips of the sea

And home to me again,

And in the shadow of my hair lie hid,

And tell me that you found a man unbid,

The saddest of all men.'A lady with soft eyes like funeral tapers,

And face that seemed wrought out of moonlit vapours,

And a sad mouth, that fear made tremulous

As any ruddy moth, looked down on us;

And she with a wave-rusted chain was tied

To two old eagles, full of ancient pride,

That with dim eyeballs stood on either side.

Few feathers were on their dishevelled wings,

For their dim minds were with the ancient things.'I bring deliverance,' pearl-pale Niamh said.'Neither the living, nor the unlabouring dead,

Nor the high gods who never lived, may fight

My enemy and hope; demons for fright

Jabber and scream about him in the night;

For he is strong and crafty as the seas

That sprang under the Seven Hazel Trees,

And I must needs endure and hate and weep,

Until the gods and demons drop asleep,

Hearing Acdh touch thc mournful strings of gold.''Is he so dreadful?''Be not over-bold,

But fly while still you may.'And thereon I:

'This demon shall be battered till he die,

And his loose bulk be thrown in the loud tide.'

'Flee from him,' pearl-pale Niamh weeping cried,

'For all men flee the demons'; but moved not

My angry king-remembering soul one jot.

There was no mightier soul of Heber's line;

Now it is old and mouse-like.For a sign

I burst the chain:still earless, neNeless, blind,

Wrapped in the things of the unhuman mind,

In some dim memory or ancient mood,

Still earless, netveless, blind, the eagles stood.And then we climbed the stair to a high door;

A hundred horsemen on the basalt floor

Beneath had paced content:we held our way

And stood within:clothed in a misty ray

I saw a foam-white seagull drift and float

Under the roof, and with a straining throat

Shouted, and hailed him:he hung there a star,

For no man's cry shall ever mount so far;

Not even your God could have thrown down that hall;

Stabling His unloosed lightnings in their stall,

He had sat down and sighed with cumbered heart,

As though His hour were come.We sought the part

That was most distant from the door; green slime

Made the way slippery, and time on time

Showed prints of sea-born scales, while down through it

The captive's journeys to and fro were writ

Like a small river, and where feet touched came

A momentary gleam of phosphorus flame.

Under the deepest shadows of the hall

That woman found a ring hung on the wall,

And in the ring a torch, and with its flare

Making a world about her in the air,

Passed under the dim doorway, out of sight,

And came again, holding a second light

Burning between her fingers, and in mine

Laid it and sighed:I held a sword whose shine

No centuries could dim, and a word ran

Thereon in Ogham letters, 'Manannan';

That sea-god's name, who in a deep content

Sprang dripping, and, with captive demons sent

Out of the sevenfold seas, built the dark hall

Rooted in foam and clouds, and cried to all

The mightier masters of a mightier race;

And at his cry there came no milk-pale face

Under a crown of thorns and dark with blood,

But only exultant faces.Niamh stood

With bowed head, trembling when the white blade shone,

But she whose hours of tenderness were gone

Had neither hope nor fear.I bade them hide

Under the shadowS till the tumults died

Of the loud-crashing and earth-shaking fight,

Lest they should look upon some dreadful sight;

And thrust the torch between the slimy flags.

A dome made out of endless carven jags,

Where shadowy face flowed into shadowy face,

Looked down on me; and in the self-same place

I waited hour by hour, and the high dome,

Windowless, pillarless, multitudinous home

Of faces, waited; and the leisured gaze

Was loaded with the memory of days

Buried and mighty.When through the great door

The dawn came in, and glimmered on the floor

With a pale light, I journeyed round the hall

And found a door deep sunken in the wall,

The least of doors; beyond on a dim plain

A little mnnel made a bubbling strain,

And on the runnel's stony and bare edge

A dusky demon dry as a withered sedge

Swayed, crooning to himself an unknown tongue:

In a sad revelry he sang and swung

Bacchant and mournful, passing to and fro

His hand along the runnel's side, as though

The flowers still grew there:far on the sea's waste

Shaking and waving, vapour vapour chased,

While high frail cloudlets, fed with a green light,

Like drifts of leaves, immovable and bright,

Hung in the passionate dawn.He slowly turned:

A demon's leisure:eyes, first white, now burned

Like wings of kingfishers; and he arose

Barking.We trampled up and down with blows

Of sword and brazen battle-axe, while day

Gave to high noon and noon to night gave way;

And when he knew the sword of Manannan

Amid the shades of night, he changed and ran

Through many shapes; I lunged at the smooth throat

Of a great eel; it changed, and I but smote

A fir-tree roaring in its leafless top;

And thereupon I drew the livid chop

Of a drowned dripping body to my breast;

Horror from horror grew; but when the west

Had surged up in a plumy fire, I drave

Through heart and spine; and cast him in the wave

Lest Niamh shudder.Full of hope and dread

Those two came carrying wine and meat and bread,

And healed my wounds with unguents out of flowers

That feed white moths by some De Danaan shrine;

Then in that hall, lit by the dim sea-shine,

We lay on skins of otters, and drank wine,

Brewed by the sea-gods, from huge cups that lay

Upon the lips of sea-gods in their day;

And then on heaped-up skins of otters slept.

And when the sun once more in saffron stept,

Rolling his flagrant wheel out of the deep,

We sang the loves and angers without sleep,

And all the exultant labours of the strong.

But now the lying clerics murder song

With barren words and flatteries of the weak.

In what land do the powerless turn the beak

Of ravening Sorrow, or the hand of Wrath?

For all your croziers, they have left the path

And wander in the storms and clinging snows,

Hopeless for ever:ancient Oisin knows,

For he is weak and poor and blind, and lies

On the anvil of the world.





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