CELT document E890001-003

Fergus and the Druid

William Butler Yeats

Whole text

  1. Fergus

    This whole day have I followed in the rocks,
    And you have changed and flowed from shape to shape,
    First as a raven on whose ancient wings
    Scarcely a feather lingered, then you seemed
    A weasel moving on from stone to stone,
    And now at last you wear a human shape,
    A thin grey man half lost in gathering night.

    What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?

    This would I say, most wise of living souls:
    Young subtle Conchubar sat close by me
    When I gave judgment, and his words were wise,
    And what to me was burden without end,
    To him seemed easy, so I laid the crown
    Upon his head to cast away my sorrow.

    What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?

    A king and proud! and that is my despair.
    I feast amid my people on the hill,
    And pace the woods, and drive my chariot-wheels
    In the white border of the murmuring sea;
    And still I feel the crown upon my head.

    What would you, Fergus?

    Be no more a king
    But learn the dreaming wisdom that is yours.

    Look on my thin grey hair and hollow cheeks
    And on these hands that may not lift the sword,
    This body trembling like a wind-blown reed.
    No woman's loved me, no man sought my help.

    A king is but a foolish labourer
    Who wastes his blood to be another's dream.

    Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams;
    Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.

    I See my life go drifting like a river
    From change to change; I have been many things —
    A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light
    Upon a sword, a fir-tree on a hill,
    An old slave grinding at a heavy quern,
    A king sitting upon a chair of gold —
    And all these things were wonderful and great;
    But now I have grown nothing, knowing all.
    Ah! Druid, Druid, how great webs of sorrow
    Lay hidden in the small slate-coloured thing!

Document details

The TEI Header

File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): Fergus and the Druid

Author: William Butler Yeats

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 950 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2014

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E890001-003

Availability: The works by W. B. Yeats are in the public domain. This electronic text is available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of private or academic research and teaching.

Notes statement

First published in May 1892, in the National Observer (A. Norman Jeffares, p. 27).

Source description

Literature (a small selection)

  1. W. B. Yeats, The Rose (1893).
  2. W. B. Yeats, Poems (London 1895).
  3. Sir Samuel Ferguson, Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson (Dublin 1918).
  4. W. B. Yeats, The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats, consisting of Reveries over childhood and youth, The trembling of the veil, and Dramatis personae (New York 1938).
  5. Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks. Corrected edition with a new preface (Oxford 1979). [First published New York 1948; reprinted London 1961.]
  6. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspach, The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats (New York: Macmillan 1957).
  7. W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (New York: Macmillan 1961).
  8. W. B. Yeats, Explorations: selected by Mrs W. B. Yeats (London/New York: Macmillan 1962).
  9. George Mayhew, 'A Corrected Typescript of Yeats's "Easter 1916"', Huntington Library Quarterly 27/1 (November 1963) 53–71.
  10. Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats (New York 1964).
  11. A. Norman Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats (Stanford 1984).
  12. Helen Vendler, Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form (Oxford/New York 2007).
  13. A general bibliography is available online at the official web site of the Nobel Prize. See: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1923/yeats-bibl.html

The edition used in the digital edition

Yeats, William Butler (1991). ‘Fergus and the Druid’. In: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats‍. Ed. by Richard J. Finneran. London: Macmillan Press, pp. 32–33.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {William Butler Yeats},
  title 	 = { Fergus and the Druid},
  editor 	 = {Richard J. Finneran},
  booktitle 	 = {The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats},
  publisher 	 = {Macmillan Press},
  address 	 = { London},
  date 	 = {1991},
  pages 	 = {32–33}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The whole poem.

Editorial declarations

Correction: The text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Hyphenation: The editorial practice of the hard-copy editor has been retained.

Segmentation: div0= the individual poem, stanzas are marked lg.

Interpretation: Names of persons (given names), and places are not tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles are not tagged.

Profile description


Date: 1892

Language usage

  • The poem is in English. (en)

Keywords: Irish Saga; poetry; W. B. Yeats; 19c; Fergus Mac Roich

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-03-27: File proofed; file parsed and validated; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-03-27: Structural markup applied according to CELT practice; TEI header created with bibliographical detail. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 1996: First proofing. (ed. Students at the CELT Project, UCC)
  4. 1996: Text captured (data capture Donnchadh Ó Corráin)

Index to all documents

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Source document


Search CELT


    2 Carrigside, College Road, Cork