Blood And The Moon

By William Butler Yeats

    Blessed be this place,
    More blessed still this tower;
    A bloody, arrogant power
    Rose out of the race
    Uttering, mastering it,
    Rose like these walls from these
    Storm-beaten cottages
    In mockery I have set
    A powerful emblem up,
    And sing it rhyme upon rhyme
    In mockery of a time
    Half dead at the top.
    Alexandria’s was a beacon tower, and Babylon’s
    An image of the moving heavens, a log-book of the sun’s journey and the moon’s;
    And Shelley had his towers, thought’s crowned powers he called them once.
    I declare this tower is my symbol; I declare
    This winding, gyring, spiring treadmill of a stair is my ancestral stair;
    That Goldsmith and the Dean, Berkeley and Burke have travelled there.
    Swift beating on his breast in sibylline frenzy blind
    Because the heart in his blood-sodden breast had dragged him down into mankind,
    Goldsmith deliberately sipping at the honey-pot of his mind,
    And haughtier-headed Burke that proved the State a tree,
    That this unconquerable labyrinth of the birds, century after century,
    Cast but dead leaves to mathematical equality;
    And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream,
    That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem,
    Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme;
    I(Saeva Indignatio) and the labourer’s hire,
    The strength that gives our blood and state magnanimity of its own desire;
    Everything that is not God consumed with intellectual fire.
    The purity of the unclouded moon
    Has flung its atrowy shaft upon the floor.
    Seven centuries have passed and it is pure,
    The blood of innocence has left no stain.
    There, on blood-saturated ground, have stood
    Soldier, assassin, executioner.
    Whether for daily pittance or in blind fear
    Or out of abstract hatred, and shed blood,
    But could not cast a single jet thereon.
    Odour of blood on the ancestral stair!
    And we that have shed none must gather there
    And clamour in drunken frenzy for the moon.

    Upon the dusty, glittering windows cling,
    And seem to cling upon the moonlit skies,
    Tortoiseshell butterflies, peacock butterflies,
    A couple of night-moths are on the wing.
    Is every modern nation like the tower,
    Half dead at the top? No matter what I said,
    For wisdom is the property of the dead,
    A something incompatible with life; and power,
    Like everything that has the stain of blood,
    A property of the living; but no stain
    Can come upon the visage of the moon
    When it has looked in glory from a cloud.

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