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March 21, 2014


There's a hauntingly beautiful 70s recording of this poem with only the below (minor) alterations, sung by Chicago singer Terry Callier (1945-2012), that if you haven't heard, are in for a real treat.

The poem is actually improved by the alterations because some of the masculine rhymes are damped down and replaced with more metrically subtle feminine ones and, in places, more befittingly accurate words.

Not difficult to understand why really, as Yeats was a mere boy of 27 when he wrote it, and the mistakes of a neophyte easy to spot when placed next to the master singer's arrangement.

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And tied a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I threw the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout,

And when I'd laid it on the floor
And gone to blow the fire a-flame,
Then something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossoms in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And vanished in the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
In quiet lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hand;

And walk thru long green dappled grass,
And pluck till time and time is done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

line 4 - 'Hooked', changed to 'tied'
line 7 - 'dropped', changed to 'threw'
line 8, removal of period at end of line
line 9, insertion of 'and' at the beginning of line
line 10, first word 'I' changed to 'and'
line 10 - second word 'went' changed to 'gone'
line 11 - first word 'but' changed to 'then'
line 14 - third word 'blossom' pluralized to 'blossoms'
line 16 - 'faded through' changed to 'vanished in' (the brightening air)

line 18 'Through hollow lands' changed to 'in quiet lands'
line 20 - 'And kiss her lips' changed to 'and know her mouth (and take her hand)

line 21 - 'And walk among long dappled grass', changed to 'And walk thu long green dappled grass'

line 22 - 'And pluck till time and times are done', changed to 'And pluck till time and time is done'

Aw, I thought it was all about the poetry and not the person? No wonder, with all the self-obsessed 'fuck' and 'shit' and, 'dildos'?, was it, in the last while?

Petty, very petty. No wonder this place is dead as a dodo with moderation like this. This isn't a place for discussing poems and sharing any love for Irish myth, but a place for poetry full of 'shit' and 'cock'. Banal in the extreme. The titans of America bullying underhandedly an unpublished nobody. Sad fucks.

Dear Desmond Swords, Thank you for the valuable, engaged, thoughtful, informative comment of 10:56 PM. It is a wonderful poem and Yeats was one of the very few who couldn't resist revising his works -- AND he improved them (unlike, say, Auden, whose return to early poems was more like an affliction). I don't know what provoked your note of 11:48 PM. I would regret it if we -- we the blog -- caused you pain somehow; if so, it was inadvertent. DL

Thanks very much David.

Sorry for coming across as a lout in the second comment. The reason for my second note is that after posting the first 'engaged, thoughtful, informative comment of 10.56pm', and seeing it appear straight away because moderation was not switched on; a short while later I returned to find the comment had been removed and moderation for the post had been switched on.

My emotional side got the better of me and instead of considering I may have been mistaken or waiting a day or two to see if it was perhaps an IT glitch, I assumed it was down to me being on a naughty list of online contributors Not to Be Published Under Any Circumstances, as happened elsewhere during the heady days of the Poetry Foundation Blog Uprising that Travis Nichols turned into his first novel; and so I waded in effing and blinding with the second comment, imagining myself a victim of the editorial dark arts it has been my lot to experience over the years as a harmless Irish myth obsessed troll/freedom fighter seeking only the truth of the bardic syllabus.


Arghh, my bad, have just seen what it was. The comment appears but there's a note saying it will appear after being moderated. Sorry. Such is the poetic comedy of online life, in which I am all too quick to inflate my ego and assume conspiracies where non exist.


Thank you for clarifying, Desmond. The blog technology is full of glitches and inadvertent errors. Just yesterday I tried to pre-post some columns I've written for the birthdays of John Keats (Oct 31) and Cary Grant (Jan 18) and was amazed to find them on the blog. Alas what boots it etc. Thank you for reading and commenting and putting up with the obstacles. DL

Well, glad you guys worked that out. I was going to stay out of it, but not happy. I put in some time writing that little essay on the Wandering Aengus (why? no money in it. no pleasant comments usually. just a desire to talk about the verse in my head, and a hope for at least imagined community) and the only response was a paragraph of curses in my inbox. I am an established philosopher and poet, a mother of two, (I should add broke and struggling public intellectual) and that is not how one speaks to me. Interestingly, my new poetry book Who Said tells how curses strike me. Why not buy a copy so we can put this unpleasantness behind us?

Jennifer, I don't blame you for feeling taken for granted. You are a terrific columnist, with a knack for reproducing great poems and bringing them to life, as with Yeats's "Song of Wandering Aengus." It is a treat to have your work on the blog. And I should also say what I know I've said before -- that you are doing god's work in speaking against suicide (and I use that locution advisedly, for it is s a tribute, even in the mind of an atheist, am I right?)

Will do Jen. Let me know if I should get it from a specific publisher's site instead of the dreaded Amazon.

And thanks very much for this. It was a great article. Sorry to have been such a dick. I'll order your book and take a photo of it when I get it, post it online and try to rectify the negativity.

Your man Aengus was from the most magical race of mythological Irish gods, the Tuatha Dé Danann. The sixth and penultimate race to have seized the island, from the fifth occupying race of mythological gods, the Fir Bolgs, at the First Battle of Moytura in Cong, Co. Mayo.

They then had a Second Battle of (a different) Moytura, beating the fourth occupying race, the Formorians, at the Moytura near Lough Arrow in Co. Sligo.

They were only in possession of the island for 200 years but loom large in the record. The 1616 list of 250 kings of Ireland, compiled in the Annals of the Four Masters, puts their seven king reign as being from 1897 - 1700 BC, whilst Geoffrey Keating's 1634 masterwork Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, 'Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland', more commonly known as History of Ireland, reckons they ruled from 1477 - 1287 BC.

The Tuatha Dé Danann were in turn beaten in battle at Teltown, Co. Meath, by the Milesians, and after this defeat were banished beneath the cairns, where, after the fall of the filidh tradition in the 17C, they lived on in folk memory as the faeries of modern day lore.

This is a link to a previously unpublished poem I wrote during the sixth year of bardic study, around the time I was, in my imagination at least, at grade three or four of the seven Irish poet grades, Dos ('bushy tree shelterer') or Cano ('whelp'), that the poets of bardic tradition whose 12 year education and study of the bardic syllabus, would have reached around years three and four.

It's a distillation of all the various mythological gods that had settled into my mind.

Killer Queen of Gamanraige

(A few lines from the opening of it.)

Killer-queen of Gamanraige, Maeve of Connacht, scored
her ancient song on pages time forgot, in life long ago

going back to begin at a coast of psychopomp sea-gods
whose tide of beauty is read beneath waves breaking

on a shamrocked shore of island invention, sung of since
the pre-Jesus era to a flight of Earls from Lough Swilley.

Goidelic Finn McCool, more apt to give than deny,
the spear ran wet through many a man, who fought

but hours amid years of hunting in woods; final chief
fenian whose hair turned white prematurely.

Sreng. Beautiful to behold, harsh and inhospitable
Connacht Fir Bolg who slew on the Plain of Pillars.

Nuada his foe at the first Battle of Moytura.

Bres; cruel son of Formorian prince Elathra
and De Dannan princess Eriu, spared at Lough

Arrow in the second by the king of light Lugh:
valiant and ruthless, crazed like a Norse-berserker

frenzied on bog-myrtle: silent in Fort Navan's
cast-list of kings on the island of myth, with women

behind a Wall of Three Whispers at Tara
and Uisnech where Bridgit's first fire was lit.

oops, this is the right link Killer Queen of Gamanraige

Thanks David - that's lovely to hear and yes, it is a moving tribute.

And Desmond, Amazon will be fine. I await my photograph, but the negativity is as but dust.
Also: Yowza you know a lot about Irish myth! I especially like Norse-berserker.


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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
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