A Dialogue of Self and Soul

A Dialogue of Self and Soul

Original Text

Yeats, William Butler. W. B. Yeats: Selected Poetry: 142-145. Ed. by A. Norman Jeffares. London: Macmillan, 1968.

2My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
3Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
4Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
5Upon the breathless starlit air,
6'Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
7Fix every wandering thought upon
8That quarter where all thought is done:
9Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?
10My Self. The consecrated blade upon my knees
11Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was,
12Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
13Unspotted by the centuries;
14That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
15From some court-lady's dress and round
16The wooden scabbard bound and wound
17Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.
18My Soul. Why should the imagination of a man
19Long past his prime remember things that are
20Emblematical of love and war?
21Think of ancestral night that can,
22If but imagination scorn the earth
23And intellect is wandering
24To this and that and t'other thing,
25Deliver from the crime of death and birth.
26My Self. Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
27Five hundred years ago, about it lie
28Flowers from I know not what embroidery --
29Heart's purple -- and all these I set
30For emblems of the day against the tower
31Emblematical of the night,
32And claim as by a soldier's right
33A charter to commit the crime once more.
34My Soul. Such fullness in that quarter overflows
35And falls into the basin of the mind
36That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
37For intellect no longer knows
38Is from the Ought, or Knower from the Known --
39That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
40Only the dead can be forgiven;
41But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.
42My Self. A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
43What matter if the ditches are impure?
44What matter if I live it all once more?
45Endure that toil of growing up;
46The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
47Of boyhood changing into man;
48The unfinished man and his pain
49Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;
50The finished man among his enemies? --
51How in the name of Heaven can he escape
52That defiling and disfigured shape
53The mirror of malicious eyes
54Casts upon his eyes until at last
55He thinks that shape must be his shape?
56And what's the good of an escape
57If honour find him in the wintry blast?
58I am content to live it all again
59And yet again, if it be life to pitch
60Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch,
61A blind man battering blind men;
62Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
63The folly that man does
64Or must suffer, if he woos
65A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
66I am content to follow to its source
67Every event in action or in thought;
68Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
69When such as I cast out remorse
70So great a sweetness flows into the breast
71We must laugh and we must sing,
72We are blest by everything,
73Everything we look upon is blest.
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

The Winding Star and Other Poems, 1933.

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