Perfectly happy now, he looked at his estate. An exile making watches glanced up as he passed And went on working; where a hospital was rising fast, A joiner touched his cap; an agent came to tell Some of the trees he'd planted were progressing well. The white alps glittered. It was summer. He was very great.
Far off in Paris where his enemies Whispered that he was wicked, in an upright chair A blind old woman longed for death and letters. He would write, "Nothing is better than life". But was it? Yes, the fight Against the false and the unfair Was always worth it. So was gardening. Civilize.
Cajoling, scolding, scheming, cleverest of them all, He'd had the other children in a holy war Against the unfamous grown-ups; and like a child, been sly And humble, when there was occasion for The two-faced answer or the plain protective lie, But, patient like a peasant, waited for their fall.
And never doubted, like D'Alembert, he would win: Only Pascal was a great enemy, the rest Were rats already poisoned; there was much, though, to be done, And only himself to count upon. Dear Diderot was dull but did his best; Rousseau, he'd always known, would blubber and give in.
Night fell and made him think of women: Lust Was one of the great teachers; Pascal was a fool, How Emilie had loved astronomy and bed; Pimpette had loved him too, like scandal; he was glad. He'd done his share of weeping for Jerusalem: As a rule, It was the pleasure-haters who became unjust.
Yet, like a sentinel, he could not sleep. The night was full of wrong, Earthquakes and executions: Soon he would be dead, And still all over Europe stood the horrible nurses Itching to boil their children. Only his verses Perhaps could stop them: He must go on working: Overhead, The uncomplaining stars composed their lucid song.
Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after, And the poetry he invented was easy to understand; He knew human folly like the back of his hand, And was greatly interested in armies and fleets; When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
He disappeared in the dead of winter: The brooks were frozen, the air-ports almost deserted? And snow disfigured the public statues; The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day. O all the instruments agree The day of his death was a dark cold day.
Far from his illness The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests, The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays; By mourning tongues The death of the poet was kept from his poems.
But for him it was last afternoon as himself, An afternoon of nurses and rumours; The provinces of his body revolted, The squares of his mind were empty, Silence invaded the suburbs, The current of his feeling failed: he became his admirers.
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections; To find his happiness in another kind of wood And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. The words of a dead man Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse, And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed, And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom; A few thousand will think of this day As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual. O all the instruments agree The day of his death was a dark cold day.
You were silly like us: your gift survived it all; The parich of rich women, physical decay, Yourself; mad Ireland hurt you into poetry. Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still, For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives In the valley of its saying where executives Would never want to tamper; it flows south From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, A way of happening, a mouth.
Earth, receive an honoured guest; William Yeats is laid to rest: Let the Irish vessel lie Emptied of its poetry.
Time that is intolerant, Of the brave and innocent, And indifferent in a week To a beautiful physique,
Worships language and forgives Everyone by whome it lives; Pardons cowardice, conceit, Lays its honours at their feet.
Time that with this strange excuse Pardoned Kipling and his views, And will pardon Paul Claudel, Pardons him for writing well.
In the nightmare of the dark All the dogs of Europe bark, And the living nations wait, Each sequestered in its hate;
Intellectual disgrace Stares from every human face, And the seas of pity lie Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right To the bottom of the night, With your unconstraining voice Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse Make a vineyard of the curse, Sing of human unsuccess In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart Let the healing fountain start, In the prison of his days Teach the free man how to praise.
ROMAN WALL BLUES
Over the heather the wet wind blows, I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.
The rain comes pattering out of the sky, I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.
The mist creeps over the hard grey stone, My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.
Aulus goes hanging around her place, I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.
Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish; There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.
She gave me a ring but I diced it away; I want my girl and I want my pay.
When I'm a veteran with only one eye I shall do nothing but look at the sky.
The Ogre does what ogres can, Deeds quite impossible for Man, But one prize is beyond his reach, The Ogre cannot master Speech: About a subjugated plain, Among its desperate and slain, The Ogre stalks with hands on hips, While drivel gushes from his lips.