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    The Tower

    by William Butler Yeats
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    WHAT shall I do with this absurdity -
    O heart, O troubled heart - this caricature,
    Decrepit age that has been tied to me
    As to a dog's tail?
    Never had I more
    Excited, passionate, fantastical
    Imagination, nor an ear and eye
    That more expected the impossible -
    No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,
    Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back
    And had the livelong summer day to spend.
    It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
    Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
    Until imagination, ear and eye,
    Can be content with argument and deal
    In abstract things; or be derided by
    A sort of battered kettle at the heel.

    I pace upon the battlements and stare
    On the foundations of a house, or where
    Tree, like a sooty finger, starts from the earth;
    And send imagination forth
    Under the day's declining beam, and call
    Images and memories
    From ruin or from ancient trees,
    For I would ask a question of them all.

    Beyond that ridge lived Mrs. French, and once
    When every silver candlestick or sconce
    Lit up the dark mahogany and the wine.
    A serving-man, that could divine
    That most respected lady's every wish,
    Ran and with the garden shears
    Clipped an insolent farmer's ears
    And brought them in a little covered dish.

    Some few remembered still when I was young
    A peasant girl commended by a Song,
    Who'd lived somewhere upon that rocky place,
    And praised the colour of her face,
    And had the greater joy in praising her,
    Remembering that, if walked she there,
    Farmers jostled at the fair
    So great a glory did the song confer.

    And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes,
    Or else by toasting her a score of times,
    Rose from the table and declared it right
    To test their fancy by their sight;
    But they mistook the brightness of the moon
    For the prosaic light of day -
    Music had driven their wits astray -
    And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone.

    Strange, but the man who made the song was blind;
    Yet, now I have considered it, I find
    That nothing strange; the tragedy began
    With Homer that was a blind man,
    And Helen has all living hearts betrayed.
    O may the moon and sunlight seem
    One inextricable beam,
    For if I triumph I must make men mad.

    And I myself created Hanrahan
    And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn
    From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages.
    Caught by an old man's juggleries
    He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro
    And had but broken knees for hire
    And horrible splendour of desire;
    I thought it all out twenty years ago:

    Good fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn;
    And when that ancient ruffian's turn was on
    He so bewitched the cards under his thumb
    That all but the one card became
    A pack of hounds and not a pack of cards,
    And that he changed into a hare.
    Hanrahan rose in frenzy there
    And followed up those baying creatures towards -

    O towards I have forgotten what - enough!
    I must recall a man that neither love
    Nor music nor an enemy's clipped ear
    Could, he was so harried, cheer;
    A figure that has grown so fabulous
    There's not a neighbour left to say
    When he finished his dog's day:
    An ancient bankrupt master of this house.

    Before that ruin came, for centuries,
    Rough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees
    Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs,
    And certain men-at-arms there were
    Whose images, in the Great Memory stored,
    Come with loud cry and panting breast
    To break upon a sleeper's rest
    While their great wooden dice beat on the board.

    As I would question all, come all who can;
    Come old, necessitous. half-mounted man;
    And bring beauty's blind rambling celebrant;
    The red man the juggler sent
    Through God-forsaken meadows; Mrs. French,
    Gifted with so fine an ear;
    The man drowned in a bog's mire,
    When mocking Muses chose the country wench.

    Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
    Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
    Whether in public or in secret rage
    As I do now against old age?
    But I have found an answer in those eyes
    That are impatient to be gone;
    Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan,
    For I need all his mighty memories.

    Old lecher with a love on every wind,
    Bring up out of that deep considering mind
    All that you have discovered in the grave,
    For it is certain that you have
    Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing
    plunge, lured by a softening eye,
    Or by a touch or a sigh,
    Into the labyrinth of another's being;

    Does the imagination dwell the most
    Upon a woman won or woman lost?
    If on the lost, admit you turned aside
    From a great labyrinth out of pride,
    Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
    Or anything called conscience once;
    And that if memory recur, the sun's
    Under eclipse and the day blotted out.

    It is time that I wrote my will;
    I choose upstanding men
    That climb the streams until
    The fountain leap, and at dawn
    Drop their cast at the side
    Of dripping stone; I declare
    They shall inherit my pride,
    The pride of people that were
    Bound neither to Cause nor to State.
    Neither to slaves that were spat on,
    Nor to the tyrants that spat,
    The people of Burke and of Grattan
    That gave, though free to refuse -
    pride, like that of the morn,
    When the headlong light is loose,
    Or that of the fabulous horn,
    Or that of the sudden shower
    When all streams are dry,
    Or that of the hour
    When the swan must fix his eye
    Upon a fading gleam,
    Float out upon a long
    Last reach of glittering stream
    And there sing his last song.
    And I declare my faith:
    I mock plotinus' thought
    And cry in plato's teeth,
    Death and life were not
    Till man made up the whole,
    Made lock, stock and barrel
    Out of his bitter soul,
    Aye, sun and moon and star, all,
    And further add to that
    That, being dead, we rise,
    Dream and so create
    Translunar paradise.
    I have prepared my peace
    With learned Italian things
    And the proud stones of Greece,
    Poet's imaginings
    And memories of love,
    Memories of the words of women,
    All those things whereof
    Man makes a superhuman,
    Mirror-resembling dream.

    As at the loophole there
    The daws chatter and scream,
    And drop twigs layer upon layer.
    When they have mounted up,
    The mother bird will rest
    On their hollow top,
    And so warm her wild nest.

    I leave both faith and pride
    To young upstanding men
    Climbing the mountain-side,
    That under bursting dawn
    They may drop a fly;
    Being of that metal made
    Till it was broken by
    This sedentary trade.

    Now shall I make my soul,
    Compelling it to study
    In a learned school
    Till the wreck of body,
    Slow decay of blood,
    Testy delirium
    Or dull decrepitude,
    Or what worse evil come -
    The death of friends, or death
    Of every brilliant eye
    That made a catch in the breath - .
    Seem but the clouds of the sky
    When the horizon fades;
    Or a bird's sleepy cry
    Among the deepening shades.
    If you're writing a The Tower essay and need some advice, post your William Butler Yeats essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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