Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
I. Irish
From ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ by William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
Celtic Literature
          In contemporary Celtic poetry no one surpasses Mr. W. B. Yeats, particularly in the re-creation of that wonderful past with whose atmosphere his whole work is charged. As an example of Mr. Yeats’s narrative method with legendary themes we may quote some lines from his beautiful ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ (Ossian):—

FLED foam underneath us, and round us a wandering and milky smoke,
High as the saddle-girth, covering away from our glances the tide;
And those that fled, and that followed, from the foam-pale distance broke;
The immortal desire of immortals we saw in their faces, and sighed.
I mused on the chase with the Fenians, and Bran, Sgeolan, Lomair,        5
And never a song sang Neave, and over my finger-tips
Came now the sliding of tears and sweeping of mist-cold hair,
And now the warmth of sighs, and after the quiver of lips.
Were we days long or hours long in riding, when, rolled in a grisly peace,
An isle lay level before us, with dripping hazel and oak?        10
And we stood on a sea’s edge we saw not; for whiter than new-washed fleece
Fled foam underneath us, and round us a wandering and milky smoke.
And we rode on the plains of the sea’s edge—the sea’s edge barren and gray,
Gray sands on the green of the grasses and over the dripping trees,
Dripping and doubling landward, as though they would hasten away        15
Like an army of old men longing for rest from the moan of the seas.
But the trees grew taller and closer, immense in their wrinkling bark;
Dropping—a murmurous dropping—old silence and that one sound;
For no live creatures lived there, no weasels moved in the dark—
Long sighs arose in our spirits, beneath us bubbled the ground.        20
And the ears of the horse went sinking away in the hollow night;
For as drift from a sailor slow drowning the gleams of the world and the sun,
Ceased on our hands and our faces, on hazel and oak leaf, the light,
And the stars were blotted above us, and the whole of the world was one.

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