File:William Butler Yeat by George Charles Beresford.jpg
Yeats [by George Charles Beresford, 1911]

The Three Hermits
by William Butler Yeats
from Responsibilities [1914]

Three old hermits took the air
By a cold and desolate sea,
First was muttering a prayer,
Second rummaged for a flea;
On a windy stone, the third,
Giddy with his hundredth year,
Sang unnoticed like a bird.
“Though the Door of Death is near
And what waits behind the door,
Three times in a single day
I, though upright on the shore,
Fall asleep when I should pray.”
So the first but now the second,
“We’re but given what we have earned
When all thoughts and deeds are reckoned,
So it’s plain to be discerned
That the shades of holy men,
Who have failed being weak of will,
Pass the Door of Birth again,
And are plagued by crowds, until
They’ve the passion to escape.”
Moaned the other, “They are thrown
Into some most fearful shape.”
But the second mocked his moan:
“They are not changed to anything,
Having loved God once, but maybe,
To a poet or a king
Or a witty lovely lady.”
While he’d rummaged rags and hair,
Caught and cracked his flea, the third,
Giddy with his hundredth year
Sang unnoticed like a bird. 

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