Thursday, January 22, 2015

A William Butler Yeats Poem


High Talk

Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern stalks upon higher,
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence or a fire.
Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, make but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon his timber toes,
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at the pane,
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to chisel and plane.

Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.
All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.



  1. Please see Gjertrud Schnackenberg's wonderful series, "High Talk & Lofty Thoughts" at the terrific site,

  2. This is the 150th anniversary of Yeats's birth. Here, the Irish Consulate is planning some readings. Meanwhile I've been teaching/reading some of his poems to my Chinese students, who seem no more consternated than they were before. But it's probably a very good time for us all to go back and re-read him.