Friday, November 25, 2011

The Cold Companionable Streams

Claude Monet, Poplars along the River Epte, Autumn, 1891
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?


— William Butler Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”


Which is the more difficult duty: to leave too soon, or to stay behind, unable to follow? Stupid question, for each of us will assume both burdens soon enough, and likely much too soon.

Rest in peace, absent friends.

Live unwearied in love, joy, and passion, present ones.


© 2011 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.