a fire was in my head...

ten poems for changing eye and hand

William Butler Yeats

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

        – from The Wind Among the Reeds, 1899


Yeats’ amazing poem of awakening, of recognizing one’s dedication to art, to life, to muse. A beautiful and well-written poem. The imagery, vivid in its detail, here is as strong a setting as can be found in any Yeats’ piece – a real force.

The music of the language, bordering on incantation, has been, from my very first read, a learning experience. And, I've never forgotten the feel of the words in my mouth:

I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name

The strength of these lines settles into something rustled & some one called. Called into something larger, something deeper than has been known. A path, a road, a way that stretches beyond the known.


        – Karan Casey and Aoife O’Donovan sing
              “The Song of Wandering Aengus”


Pris said...

That's a beautiful poem!

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for the read, Pris.

LKD said...

A fire was in my head.

I wish that's how it felt.

Like a burning.

It's such a constant that it feels common, unremarkable.

I wish it felt like a fire in my head.

Hell of a poem. I'm damned glad I read it here, now, this morning.

I want my head to be on fire.

I want to catch a fish that turns into a glimmering girl.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for reading, Laurel. Sometimes a poem - or a piece of literature - comes alive in the body. That's how this poem affects me. This is a poem I so much want to climb into, become a part of. Every time I read it, I feel that way. It is a great work, and I think it's Yeats' best.

Pamela said...

I love this poem, too--we studied fish poems to start my intro to poetry class. I didn't know this poem as well as I should until my students' questions taught it to me. Looking forward to the class starting up this fall.

I'd still probably vote for "Leda and the Swan," but this would be high on the "Great Yeats" list.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Leda and the Swan is a great piece. I just always seem to gravitate toward Aengus. Thanks for reading, Pamela.

Rachel Mallino said...

If it weren't for Yeats, I would have never loved poetry in the first place. Thanks for this one, Sam.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

I would say that reading Yeats started many on a search for pen and paper.