The Circus Animals' Desertion

The Circus Animals' Desertion

Original Text

Yeats, William Butler. W. B. Yeats: Selected Poetry: 201-202. Ed. by A. Norman Jeffares. London: Macmillan, 1968.

1I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
2I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
3Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
4I must be satisfied with my heart, although
5Winter and summer till old age began
6My circus animals were all on show,
7Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
8Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.
9What can I but enumerate old themes?
10First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
11Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
12Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
13Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
14That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
15But what cared I that set him on to ride,
16I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride?
17And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
18'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it;
19She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
20But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
21I thought my dear must her own soul destroy,
22So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
23And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
24This dream itself had all my thought and love.
25And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
26Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
27Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
28It was the dream itself enchanted me:
29Character isolated by a deed
30To engross the present and dominate memory.
31players and painted stage took all my love,
32And not those things that they were emblems of.
33Those masterful images because complete
34Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
35A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
36Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
37Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
38Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
39I must lie down where all the ladders start
40In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

Last Poems (1936-1939)

RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition