The Stolen Child

I suppose if I’m going to start somewhere, then W. B. Yeats isn’t a bad place to begin gaining an appreciation for poetry. No thanks to whoever my English and French teachers were in high school (there were lots of schools, lots of teachers), poetry seemed like something mostly technical  which required lots of memorizing, both things I’ve never had an interest in, and which left me unwilling to dwell into verse any longer than was strictly necessary. A shame really, though of course it’s never too late to begin again.

Yeats was unknown to me before, other than by name and reputation, until I picked up a couple of great little audiobooks featuring some of his most beloved poems accompanied with biographical comments putting them into context. Hearing poetry read aloud by talented readers is probably one surefire way to gain a new appreciation for it. Then I found a lovely little book, W. B. Yeats: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney, part of Faber and Faber’s 80th Anniversary Collection published in 2009. The following poem will no doubt end up on my list of all-time favourite poems one day:

The Stolen Child by W. B. Yeats

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 berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
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 grey 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 is 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.

~

Painting: Midsummer Eve by Edward Robert Hughes, 1908

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