The Song of the Happy Shepherd

The Song of the Happy Shepherd

Original Text

Yeats, William Butler. W. B. Yeats: Selected Poetry: 1-2. Ed. by A. Norman Jeffares. London: Macmillan, 1968.

1The woods of Arcady are dead,
2And over is their antique joy;
3Of old the world on dreaming fed;
4Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
5Yet still she turns her restless head:
6But O, sick children of the world,
7Of all the many changing things
8In dreary dancing past us whirled,
9To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
10Words alone are certain good.
11Where are now the warring kings,
12Word be-mockers?---By the Rood
13Where are now the warring kings?
14An idle word is now their glory,
15By the stammering schoolboy said,
16Reading some entangled story:
17The kings of the old time are dead;
18The wandering earth herself may be
19Only a sudden flaming word,
20In clanging space a moment heard,
21Troubling the endless reverie.
22Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
23Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
24To hunger fiercely after truth,
25Lest all thy toiling only breeds
26New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
27Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
28No learning from the starry men,
29Who follow with the optic glass
30The whirling ways of stars that pass---
31Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
32No word of theirs---the cold star-bane
33Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
34And dead is all their human truth.
35Go gather by the humming sea
36Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
37And to its lips thy story tell,
38And they thy comforters will be,
39Rewarding in melodious guile
40Thy fretful words a little while,
41Till they shall singing fade in ruth
42And die a pearly brotherhood;
43For words alone are certain good:
44Sing, then, for this is also sooth.
45I must be gone: there is a grave
46Where daffodil and lily wave,
47And I would please the hapless faun,
48Buried under the sleepy ground,
49With mirthful songs before the dawn.
50His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
51And still I dream he treads the lawn,
52Walking ghostly in the dew,
53Pierced by my glad singing through,
54My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
55But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
56For fair are poppies on the brow:
57Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

Crossways, 1889.

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