August 12, 2016

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 someone 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.

        One of William Butler Yeats’s more famous fantasy poems, The Song of Wandering Aengus was published in 1899.  Aengus is one of the Tuatha De Danann, a god of love, youth, and beauty.  This poem doesn’t tell one of the traditional myths about Aengus, but there is a story that Aengus fell in love with a woman he saw in a dream, and it took three years of searching to find her.  She was the goddess of sleep and dreams.  So you can see here how Yeats lets ideas from Celtic myth inspire him, and weaves something new and mysterious from them.  I especially love the moth-like stars.

[Pictures: Songs for Wandering Aengus, woodcut by Matthew Zappala (Image from roll magazine);
Wherever Angus went a number of white birds flew with him, illustration by Beatrice Elvery from Heroes of the Dawn by Violet Russell, 1914 (Image from Internet Archive).]

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