Poem introduction

Yeats remarked of his early poems that they were 'the heart's cry against necessity' – he was much preoccupied by his long unrequited love for Maude Gonne, while also immersing his imagination in the lore and mythology of Ireland. The Aengus of this poem is a Celtic god, for Yeats the god of youth, beauty and poetry, though really perhaps no more than a vehicle for the poet's own longing.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Books by William Butler Yeats