Sunday, March 17, 2013


Stay at Home and Drink Your Beer

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), "The Old Stone Cross," in The Collected Works, Vol. I: The Poems, 2nd ed. (New York: Scribner, 1997), pp. 324-325:
A statesman is an easy man,
He tells his lies by rote;
A journalist makes up his lies
And takes you by the throat;
So stay at home and drink your beer
And let the neighbours vote,
    Said the man in the golden breastplate
    Under the old stone Cross.

Because this age and the next age
Engender in the ditch,
No man can know a happy man
From any passing wretch;
If Folly link with Elegance
No man knows which is which,
    Said the man in the golden breastplate
    Under the old stone Cross.

But actors lacking music
Do most excite my spleen,
They say it is more human
To shuffle, grunt and groan,
Not knowing what unearthly stuff
Rounds a mighty scene,
    Said the man in the golden breastplate
    Under the old stone Cross.
R.F. Foster, W.B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. II: The Arch-Poet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003; rpt. 2005), p. 600:
As in much of his late verse, there is an echo of his Sligo youth, and an anticipation of last things: Drumcliff Churchyard, where the Sligo Yeatses were buried, was supposedly guarded by an ancient Irish warrior lying in his armour, and an ancient cross stands sentinel nearby.
William Butler Yeats, "Drumcliff and Rosses," in The Celtic Twilight (1893; rpt. London: A.H. Bullen, 1902), pp. 148-159 (at 156-157):
At Drumcliff there is a very ancient graveyard. The Annals of the Four Masters have this verse about a soldier named Denadhach, who died in 871: 'A pious soldier of the race of Con lies under hazel crosses at Drumcliff.' Not very long ago an old woman, turning to go into the churchyard at night to pray, saw standing before her a man in armour, who asked her where she was going. It was the 'pious soldier of the race of Con,' says local wisdom, still keeping watch, with his ancient piety, over the graveyard.

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