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 & cds by William Butler Yeats