File:William Butler Yeat by George Charles
Beresford.jpg
1911
photo of Yeats by George Charles Beresford

Fergus and the Druid
by William
Butler Yeats

from The Rose (1893)



Fergus.  This whole day have I followed in the
rocks,
And you have changed and flowed from shape to shape,
First as a raven on whose ancient wings
Scarcely a feather lingered, then you seemed
A weasel moving on from stone to stone,
And now at last you wear a human shape,
A thin grey man half lost in gathering night.

Druid.  What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?

Fergus.  This would I say, most wise of living souls:
Young subtle Conchubar sat close by me
When I gave judgment, and his words were wise,
And what to me was burden without end,
To him seemed easy, So I laid the crown
Upon his head to cast away my sorrow.

Druid.  What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?

Fergus.  A king and proud! and that is my despair.
I feast amid my people on the hill,
And pace the woods, and drive my chariot-wheels
In the white border of the murmuring sea;
And still I feel the crown upon my head.

Druid.  What would you, Fergus?

Fergus.  Be no more a king
But learn the dreaming wisdom that is yours.

Druid.  Look on my thin grey hair and hollow cheeks
And on these hands that may not lift the sword,
This body trembling like a wind-blown reed.
No woman’s loved me, no man sought my help.

Fergus.  A king is but a foolish labourer
Who wastes his blood to be another’s dream.

Druid.  Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams;
Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.

Fergus.  I see my life go drifting like a river
From change to change; I have been many things —
A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light
Upon a sword, a fir-tree on a hill,
An old slave grinding at a heavy quern,
A king sitting upon a chair of gold —
And all these things were wonderful and great;
But now I have grown nothing, knowing all.
Ah! Druid, Druid, how great webs of sorrow
Lay hidden in the small slate-coloured thing!

* * * * *

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