Verse > W.B. Yeats > The Wild Swans at Coole
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W.B. Yeats (1865–1939).  The Wild Swans at Coole.  1919.

33. Ego Dominus Tuus


Hic.ON the grey sand beside the shallow stream 
Under your old wind-beaten tower, where still 
A lamp burns on beside the open book 
That Michael Robartes left, you walk in the moon 
And though you have passed the best of life still trace         5
Enthralled by the unconquerable delusion 
Magical shapes. 
  
Ille.By the help of an image 
I call to my own opposite, summon all 
That I have handled least, least looked upon.  10
  
Hic.And I would find myself and not an image. 
  
Ille.That is our modern hope and by its light 
We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind 
And lost the old nonchalance of the hand; 
Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush  15
We are but critics, or but half create, 
Timid, entangled, empty and abashed 
Lacking the countenance of our friends. 
  
Hic.And yet 
The chief imagination of Christendom  20
Dante Alighieri, so utterly found himself 
That he has made that hollow face of his 
More plain to the mind’s eye than any face 
But that of Christ. 
  
Ille.And did he find himself,  25
Or was the hunger that had made it hollow 
A hunger for the apple on the bough 
Most out of reach? and is that spectral image 
The man that Lapo and that Guido knew? 
I think he fashioned from his opposite  30
An image that might have been a stony face, 
Staring upon a bedouin’s horse-hair roof 
From doored and windowed cliff, or half upturned 
Among the coarse grass and the camel dung. 
He set his chisel to the hardest stone.  35
Being mocked by Guido for his lecherous life, 
Derided and deriding, driven out 
To climb that stair and eat that bitter bread, 
He found the unpersuadable justice, he found 
The most exalted lady loved by a man.  40
  
Hic.Yet surely there are men who have made their art 
Out of no tragic war, lovers of life, 
Impulsive men that look for happiness 
And sing when they have found it. 
  
Ille.No, not sing,  45
For those that love the world serve it in action, 
Grow rich, popular and full of influence, 
And should they paint or write still it is action: 
The struggle of the fly in marmalade. 
The rhetorician would deceive his neighbours,  50
The sentimentalist himself; while art 
Is but a vision of reality. 
What portion in the world can the artist have 
Who has awakened from the common dream 
But dissipation and despair?  55
  
Hic.And yet 
No one denies to Keats love of the world; 
Remember his deliberate happiness. 
  
Ille.His art is happy but who knows his mind? 
I see a schoolboy when I think of him,  60
With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window, 
For certainly he sank into his grave 
His senses and his heart unsatisfied, 
And made—being poor, ailing and ignorant, 
Shut out from all the luxury of the world,  65
The coarse-bred son of a livery stablekeeper— 
Luxuriant song. 
  
Hic.Why should you leave the lamp 
Burning alone beside an open book 
And trace these characters upon the sands;  70
A style is found by sedentary toil 
And by the imitation of great masters. 
  
Ille.Because I seek an image, not a book. 
Those men that in their writings are most wise 
Own nothing but their blind, stupefied hearts.  75
I call to the mysterious one who yet 
Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream 
And look most like me, being indeed my double, 
And prove of all imaginable things 
The most unlike, being my anti-self,  80
And standing by these characters disclose 
All that I seek; and whisper it as though 
He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud 
Their momentary cries before it is dawn, 
Would carry it away to blasphemous men.  85


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