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    In Memory Of W. B. Yeats - W. H. Auden

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    poetictouch

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    W. H. Auden reads his poem In Memory Of W. B. Yeats

    In Memory Of W. B. Yeats
    by W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

    I

    He disappeared in the dead of winter:
    The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
    And snow disfigured the public statues;
    The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
    What instruments we have agree
    The day of his death was a dark cold day.

    Far from his illness
    The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
    The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
    By mourning tongues
    The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

    But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
    An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
    The provinces of his body revolted,
    The squares of his mind were empty,
    Silence invaded the suburbs,
    The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

    Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
    And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
    To find his happiness in another kind of wood
    And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
    The words of a dead man
    Are modified in the guts of the living.

    But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
    When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
    And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
    And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
    A few thousand will think of this day
    As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

    O all the instruments agree
    The day of his death was a dark cold day.

    II

    You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
    The parish of rich women, physical decay,
    Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
    Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
    For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
    In the valley of its making where executives
    Would never want to tamper, flows on south
    From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
    Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
    A way of happening, a mouth.

    III

    Earth, receive an honoured guest:
    William Yeats is laid to rest.
    Let the Irish vessel lie
    Emptied of its poetry.

    In the nightmare of the dark
    All the dogs of Europe bark,
    And the living nations wait,
    Each sequestered in its hate;

    Intellectual disgrace
    Stares from every human face,
    And the seas of pity lie
    Locked and frozen in each eye.

    Follow, poet, follow right
    To the bottom of the night,
    With your unconstraining voice
    Still persuade us to rejoice;

    With the farming of a verse
    Make a vineyard of the curse,
    Sing of human unsuccess
    In a rapture of distress;

    In the deserts of the heart
    Let the healing fountain start,
    In the prison of his days
    Teach the free man how to praise.