Print this page

Observations placeholder

Yeats, W B - Shadowy Waters - There, there they come. Gull, gannet or diver, But with a man’s head, or a fair womans

Identifier

007114

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

W B Yeats – Collected Poems
From In the Shadowy Waters

Forgael There, there they come!
Gull, gannet or diver,
But with a man’s head, or a fair woman’s
They hover over the masthead awhile
To wait their friends; but when their friends have come
They’ll fly upon that secret way of theirs.
One – and one – a couple – five together;
And I will hear them talking in a minute.
Yes, voices! But I do not catch the words.
Now I can hear. There’s one of them that says
‘How light we are, now we are changed to birds!’
Another answers, ‘Maybe we shall find
Our heart’s desire now that we are so light’
And then one asks another how he died,
And says, ‘A sword blade pierced me in my sleep’
And now they all wheel suddenly and fly
To the other side, and higher in the air.
And now a laggard with a woman’s head
Comes crying ‘I have run upon the sword
I have fled to my beloved in the air
In the waste of the high air, that we may wander
Among the windy meadows of the dawn’
But why are they still waiting? Why are they
Circling and circling over the mast head?
What power that is more mighty than desire
To hurry to their hidden happiness
Withholds them now? Have the Ever-living Ones
A meaning in that circling overhead?
But what’s the meaning (He cries out) Why do you linger there?
Why linger? Run to your desire
Are you not happy winged bodies now?

The source of the experience

Yeats, W B

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities