Week 4 | W. B. 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 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.
Yeats often drew inspiration from ancient Celtic stories, which reinvigorated interest in Irish mythology. His rich and beautiful poetry is layered with multiple meanings, but demonstrates an undeniable passion and yearning for harmony, beauty and spiritual ascendance.
In the original story, Aengus had a vision of a lovely maiden named Caer and spends many years lovesick in search of her. He finally finds her on the edge of a lake, but discovers that she is imprisoned by an enchantment that transforms her into a swan every other year. Without hesitation, Aengus jumps into the lake, choosing to be transformed into a swan as well rather than be parted.
In Yeats’ poem, Aengus has not yet found his love. He is “old with wandering.” And although he has only glimpsed her once in a vision, he's committed to wandering forever in search of her. Perhaps Aengus’ yearning represents the yearning of not only lovers, but philosophers and poets as well - all all of whom strive toward an elusive vision of the sublime.
View the Yeats print here.