CELT document E910001-058

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

William Butler Yeats

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

  1. Many ingenious lovely things are gone
    That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude,  p.207
    Protected from the circle of the moon
    That pitches common things about. There stood
    Amid the ornamental bronze and stone
    An ancient image made of olive wood —
    And gone are Phidias' famous ivories
    And all the golden grasshoppers and bees.
  2. We too had many pretty toys when young;
    A law indifferent to blame or praise,
    To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong
    Melt down, as it were wax in the sun's rays;
    Public opinion ripening for so long
    We thought it would outlive all future days.
    O what fine thought we had because we thought
    That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.
  3. All teeth were drawn, all ancient tricks unlearned,
    And a great army but a showy thing;
    What matter that no cannon had been turned
    Into a ploughshare? Parliament and king
    Thought that unless a little powder burned
    The trumpeters might burst with trumpeting
    And yet it lack all glory; and perchance
    The guardsmen's drowsy chargers would not prance.
  4. Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
    Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
    Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,
    To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
    The night can sweat with terror as before
    We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,
    And planned to bring the world under a rule,
    Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.
  5. He who can read the signs nor sink unmanned
    Into the half-deceit of some intoxicant
    From shallow wits; who knows no work can stand,
    Whether health, wealth or peace of mind were spent  p.208
    On master-work of intellect or hand,
    No honour leave its mighty monument,
    Has but one comfort left: all triumph would
    But break upon his ghostly solitude.
  6. But is there any comfort to be found?
    Man is in love and loves what vanishes,
    What more is there to say? That country round
    None dared admit, if such a thought were his,
    Incendiary or bigot could be found
    To burn that stump on the Acropolis,
    Or break in bits the famous ivories
    Or traffic in the grasshoppers or bees.
  7. When Loie Fuller's Chinese dancers enwound
    A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth,
    It seemed that a dragon of air
    Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round
    Or hurried them off on its own furious path;
    So the Platonic Year
    Whirls out new right and wrong,
    Whirls in the old instead;
    All men are dancers and their tread
    Goes to the barbarous clangour of a gong.
  8. Some moralist or mythological poet
    Compares the solitary soul to a swan;
    I am satisfied with that,
    Satisfied if a troubled mirror show it,
    Before that brief gleam of its life be gone,
    An image of its state;
    The wings half spread for flight,
    The breast thrust out in pride
    Whether to play, or to ride
    Those winds that clamour of approaching night.
  9.  p.209
  10. A man in his own secret meditation
    Is lost amid the labyrinth that he has made
    In art or politics;
    Some platonist affirms that in the station
    Where we should cast off body and trade
    The ancient habit sticks,
    And that if our works could
    But vanish with our breath
    That were a lucky death,
    For triumph can but mar our solitude.
  11. The swan has leaped into the desolate heaven:
    That image can bring wildness, bring a rage
    To end all things, to end
    What my laborious life imagined, even
    The half-imagined, the half-written page;
    O but we dreamed to mend
    Whatever mischief seemed
    To afflict mankind, but now
    That winds of winter blow
    Learn that we were crack-pated when we dreamed.
  12. We, who seven yeats ago
    Talked of honour and of truth,
    Shriek with pleasure if we show
    The weasel's twist, the weasel's tooth.
  13. Come let us mock at the great
    That had such burdens on the mind
    And toiled so hard and late
    To leave some monument behind,
    Nor thought of the levelling wind.
  14. Come let us mock at the wise;
    With all those calendars whereon  p.210
    They fixed old aching eyes,
    They never saw how seasons run,
    And now but gape at the sun.
  15. Come let us mock at the good
    That fancied goodness might be gay,
    And sick of solitude
    Might proclaim a holiday:
    Wind shrieked — and where are they?
  16. Mock mockers after that
    That would not lift a hand maybe
    To help good, wise or great
    To bar that foul storm out, for we
    Traffic in mockery.
  17. Violence upon the roads: violence of horses;
    Some few have handsome riders, are garlanded
    On delicate sensitive ear or tossing mane,
    But wearied running round and round in their courses
    All break and vanish, and evil gathers head:
    Herodias' daughters have returned again,
    A sudden blast of dusty wind and after
    Thunder of feet, tumult of images,
    Their purpose in the labyrinth of the wind;
    And should some crazy hand dare touch a daughter
    All turn with amorous cries, or angry cries,
    According to the wind, for all are blind.
    But now wind drops, dust settles; thereupon
    There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
    Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
    That insolent fiend Robert Artisson
    To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought
    Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

Author: William Butler Yeats

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Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber and Rebecca Daly

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

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1. First draft.

Extent: 1737 words

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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: E910001-058

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

Written in 1919; first published in the Dial in September 1921. In the London Mercury (Nov 1921) it was entitled 'Thoughts upon the Present State of the World'. (A. Norman Jeffares, p. 273).

Source description

Literature (a small selection)

  1. 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).
  2. Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks. Corrected edition with a new preface (Oxford 1979). [First published New York 1948; reprinted London 1961.]
  3. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspach, The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats (New York: Macmillan 1957).
  4. W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (New York: Macmillan 1961).
  5. W. B. Yeats, Explorations: selected by Mrs W. B. Yeats (London/New York: Macmillan 1962).
  6. Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats (New York 1964).
  7. Toby A. Foshay, 'Yeats's 'Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen': Chronology, Chronography and Chronic Misreading', in Journal of Narrative Technique, 13.2 (Spring 1983) 100–108.
  8. A. Norman Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats (Stanford 1984).
  9. David B. McWhirter, 'The Rhythm of the Body in Yeats' 'Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen'', in College Literature, 13.1 (1986) 44–54.
  10. Jefferson Holdridge, Those Mingled Seas: The Poetry of W. B. Yeats, the Beautiful and the Sublime (Dublin 2000).
  11. Rob Doggett, 'Writing out (Of) Chaos: Constructions of History in Yeats's 'Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen' and 'Meditations in Time of Civil War'', in Twentieth Century Literature, 47.2 (Summer 2001) 137–168.
  12. Helen Vendler, Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form (Oxford/New York 2007).
  13. Rebecca Sheehan, 'Competing with 'The Barbarous Clangour of a Gong': Why 'Theme of the Traitor and the Hero' Begins in 'Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen'', in Journal of Modern Literature 32.3 (Spring 2009) 22–38.
  14. 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). ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’. In: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats‍. Ed. by Richard J. Finneran. London: Macmillan Press, pp. 206–210.

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

  author 	 = {William Butler Yeats},
  title 	 = {Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen},
  editor 	 = {Richard J. Finneran},
  booktitle 	 = {The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats},
  publisher 	 = {Macmillan Press},
  address 	 = { London},
  date 	 = {1991},
  pages 	 = {206–210}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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Date: 1919

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  • The poem is in English. (en)

Keywords: literary; poetry; W. B. Yeats; Irish Civil War; 20c

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-04-02: File parsed and validated; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-04-01: TEI header created with bibliographical detail; structural markup applied according to CELT practice. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 1996: Text captured (data capture Donnchadh Ó Corráin)

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