Verse > W.B. Yeats > Responsibilities and Other Poems

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939).  Responsibilities and Other Poems.  1916.

4. To a Wealthy Man
who promised a second Subscription to the Dublin Municipal Gallery if it were proved the People wanted Pictures.

YOU gave but will not give again 
Until enough of Paudeen’s pence 
By Biddy’s halfpennies have lain 
To be ‘some sort of evidence,’ 
Before you’ll put your guineas down,         5
That things it were a pride to give 
Are what the blind and ignorant town 
Imagines best to make it thrive. 
What cared Duke Ercole, that bid 
His mummers to the market place,  10
What th’ onion-sellers thought or did 
So that his Plautus set the pace 
For the Italian comedies? 
And Guidobaldo, when he made 
That grammar school of courtesies  15
Where wit and beauty learned their trade 
Upon Urbino’s windy hill, 
Had sent no runners to and fro 
That he might learn the shepherds’ will. 
And when they drove out Cosimo,  20
Indifferent how the rancour ran, 
He gave the hours they had set free 
To Michelozzo’s latest plan 
For the San Marco Library, 
Whence turbulent Italy should draw  25
Delight in Art whose end is peace, 
In logic and in natural law 
By sucking at the dugs of Greece. 
Your open hand but shows our loss, 
For he knew better how to live.  30
Let Paudeens play at pitch and toss, 
Look up in the sun’s eye and give 
What the exultant heart calls good 
That some new day may breed the best 
Because you gave, not what they would  35
But the right twigs for an eagle’s nest!

December 1912.



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