A Sunday Poem -Yeats’ “The Stolen Child”

fairy

Watching the horror unfold in Paris this weekend led to one of W.B. Yeats’ most mystical works haunting my thoughts.  In “The Stolen Child”, Yeats seems to think innocent children might be best escaping to some mythological fantasy kingdom, where they would live hand in hand with fairies.  Why the need for such radical escapism? Because to Yeats, and this weekend to many onlookers paralysed with disbelief, “The world’s more full of weeping than you can understand”.  

As horrific pictures entered our homes on Friday evening, parents of sleeping children everywhere, must have longed for the existence of some such parallel universe, where the suffering of our world could not haunt the innocence of our children’s.  Where to paraphrase Sylvia Plath they, and all of us, were safe to enjoy lullabies and colour, ducks and wildflowers – “the zoo of new”.  Plath and Yeats both wanted to weave a world for children where there was none of the “troublous wringing of hands” that accompanies watching senseless tragedy unfold.  Both also knew that reality sometimes has other ideas.

While we undoubtedly live in a flawed universe, recognising the charm and lyricism of both Plath’s “Child” and Yeats’ “Stolen Child”, reminds me that this is still a world where the beautiful outweighs the ugly, where we have more to love than hate, where music and poetry can guide us through dark voids of silence.  Still there are days when recognising that and believing in the magic that surrounds us is just a little more challenging.  Those, for me, are days that call for a smattering of the poetic, a little food for the soul.  How can you ever expect to see a fairy if you don’t believe that little sprinkles of enchantment eternally pepper the darkness?

The Stolen Child

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s