Youth and Age

Song Cycle by Lowell Dykstra (b. 1952)

Word count: 1286

1. All things can tempt me [sung text checked 1 time]

All things can tempt me from this craft of verse:
One time it was a woman’s face, or worse —
The seeming needs of my fool-driven land;
Now nothing but comes readier to the hand
Than this accustomed toil. When I was young,
I had not given a penny for a song
Did not the poet sing it with such airs
That one believed he had a sword upstairs;
Yet would be now, could I but have my wish,
Colder and dumber and deafer than a fish.

Authorship

Confirmed with W. B. Yeats, Responsibilities and Other Poems, New York: The Macmillan company, 1916.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. To a Child dancing in the Wind [sung text checked 1 time]

Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water's roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool's triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?

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Note: also sometimes titled "To a Child dancing upon the shore"
First published in Poetry, Chicago (December 1912), revised 1913

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Two years later  [sung text checked 1 time]

Has no one said those daring
Kind eyes should be more learn'd?
Or warned you how despairing
The moths are when they are burned,
I could have warned you, but you are young,
So we speak a different tongue.
  
O you will take whatever's offered
And dream that all the world's a friend,
Suffer as your mother suffered,
Be as broken in the end.
But I am old and you are young,
And I speak a [barbarous]1 tongue.

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View original text (without footnotes)
1 Grill: "different"

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

4. The wild swans at Coole [sung text checked 1 time]

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.
  
The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
  
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
  
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
  
But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Les cygnes sauvages à Coole", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Confirmed with W. B. Yeats, Later Poems, Macmillan and Co., London, 1926, page 237.

First published in Little Review, June 1917

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. He wishes for the cloths of heaven [sung text checked 1 time]

Had I the [heavens']1 embroidered cloths
Enwrought with golden and silver light
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Tamás Rédey) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
Original title is "Aedh wishes for the cloths of heaven"; revised 1906; re-titled "He wishes for the cloths of heaven".

Confirmed with W. B. Yeats, Later Poems, Macmillan and Co., London, 1926, page 45.

1 Gurney: "Heaven's"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. The Second Coming [sung text checked 1 time]

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • GER German (Deutsch) [singable] (Walter A. Aue) , "Das zweite Kommen", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

First published in Nation, November 1920

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. Youth and age [sung text checked 1 time]

Much did I rage when young,
Being by the world oppressed,
But now with flattering tongue
It speeds the parting guest.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

8. Men improve with the years [sung text checked 1 time]

I am worn out with dreams;
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams;
And all day long I look
Upon this lady's beauty
As though I had found in book
A pictured beauty,
Pleased to have filled the eyes
Or the discerning ears,
Delighted to be but wise,
For men improve with the years;
And yet and yet
Is this my dream, or the truth?
O would that we had met
When I had my burning youth;
But I grow old among dreams,
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams.

Authorship

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Les hommes s'améliorent avec l'âge", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Confirmed with W. B. Yeats, Later Poems, Macmillan and Co., London, 1926, page 246.

First published in Little Review, June 1917

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

9. The fisherman [sung text checked 1 time]

Although I can see him still —
The freckled man who goes
To a gray place on a hill
In gray Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies —
It's long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I'd looked in the face
What I had hoped it would be
To write for my own race
And the reality:
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved —
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer —
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.

Maybe a twelve-month since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face
And gray Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark with froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream —
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, “Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.”

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

10. The circus animals' desertion [sung text checked 1 time]

I
I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

[ ... ]

III
Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Authorship

Confirmed with The Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition, ed. by Richard J. Finneran, Macmillan Publishing Company.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]