W. B. Yeats: FOUR HERMIT POEMS
Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) composed four poems with hermit themes. The earliest is the most familiar: "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" published in the 1893 collection "The Rose." "Three Hermits" was published in 1914 in a collection entitled "Responsibilities and Other Poems." "Symbols" clearly evokes images of the Tarot, the hermit prominent among them. "Symbols" was published in 1933, part of "The Winding Stair." "Meru" refers to the sacred mountain of India and conjures the insight of hermit wisdom over the passage of time. It is reminiscent of the remark of the first Christian hermit Paul: "How fares the human race? Are new roofs raised in the ancient cities; whose empire it is that now holds sway in the world, if any still survive, snared in the error of demons? "Meru" was published in 1935 as part of "Supernatural Songs."
The Lake Isle of Innisfree (1893)
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
ine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
Three Hermits (1916)
Three old hermits took the air
By a cold and desolate sea,
First was muttering a prayer,
Second rummaged for a flea;
On a windy stone, the third,
Giddy with his hundredth year,
Sang unnoticed like a bird:
'Though the Door of Death is near
And what waits behind the door,
Three times in a single day
I, though upright on the shore,
Fall asleep when I should pray.'
So the first, but now the second:
'We're but given what we have earned
When all thoughts and deeds are reckoned,
So it's plain to be discerned
That the shades of holy men
Who have failed, being weak of will,
Pass the Door of Birth again,
And are plagued by crowds, until
They've the passion to escape.'
Moaned the other, 'They are thrown
Into some most fearful shape.'
But the second mocked his moan:
'They are not changed to anything,
Having loved God once, but maybe
To a poet or a king
Or a witty lovely lady.'
While he'd rummaged rags and hair,
Caught and cracked his flea, the third,
Giddy with his hundredth year,
Sang unnoticed like a bird.
A storm-beaten old watch-tower,
A blind hermit rings the hour.
All-destroying sword-blade still
Carried by the wandering fool.
Gold-sewn silk on the sword-blade,
Beauty and fool together laid.
Civilisation is hooped together, brought
Under a rue, under the semblance of peace
By manifold illusion; but man's life is thought,
And he, despite his terror, cannot cease
Ravening through century after century,
Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may come
Into the desolation of reality:
Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and good-bye, Rome!
Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,
Caverned in night under the drifted snow,
Or where that snow and winter's dreadful blast
Beat down upon their naked bodies, know
That day brings round the night, that before dawn
His glory and his monuments are gone.