Poem:  William Butler Yeats’ “The Fisherman”

Image:  William Butler Yeats – Chicago History Museum

William Butler Yeats’ “The Fisherman”

Although I can see him still,
The freckled man who goes
To a grey place on a hill
In grey Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies,
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped ’twould be
To write for my own race  
And the reality;  
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved,
And no knave brought to book  
Who has won a drunken cheer,  
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch-cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.

Maybe a twelvemonth since
Suddenly I began,  
In scorn of this audience,  
Imagining a man
And his sun-freckled face,  
And grey Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place  
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream:
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, ‘Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.’

Back to “William Butler Yeats’ ‘The Fisherman’.”

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