Responsibilities

By William Butler Yeats

Pardon, old fathers, if you still remain
Somewhere in ear-shot for the story’s end,
Old Dublin merchant “free of the ten and four”
Or trading out of Galway into Spain;
Old country scholar, Robert Emmet’s friend,
A hundred-year-old memory to the poor;
Merchant and scholar who have left me blood
That has not passed through any huckster’s loin,
Soldiers that gave, whatever die was cast:
A Butler or an Armstrong that withstood
Beside the brackish waters of the Boyne
James and his Irish when the Dutchman crossed;
Old merchant skipper that leaped overboard
After a ragged hat in Biscay Bay;
You most of all, silent and fierce old man,
Because the daily spectacle that stirred
My fancy, and set my boyish lips to say,
“Only the wasteful virtues earn the sun”;
Pardon that for a barren passion’s sake,
Although I have come close on forty-nine,
I have no child, I have nothing but a book,
Nothing but that to prove your blood and mine.

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