The Man And The Echo – William Butler Yeats


IN a cleft that’s christened Alt 

Under broken stone I halt 

At the bottom of a pit 

That broad noon has never lit, 

And shout a secret to the stone. 

All that I have said and done, 

Now that I am old and ill, 

Turns into a question till 

I lie awake night after night 

And never get the answers right. 

Did that play of mine send out 

Certain men the English shot? 

Did words of mine put too great strain 

On that woman’s reeling brain? 

Could my spoken words have checked 

That whereby a house lay wrecked? 

And all seems evil until I 

Sleepless would lie down and die. 


Lie down and die. 


That were to shirk 

The spiritual intellect’s great work, 

And shirk it in vain. There is no release 

In a bodkin or disease, 

Nor can there be work so great 

As that which cleans man’s dirty slate. 

While man can still his body keep 

Wine or love drug him to sleep, 

Waking he thanks the Lord that he 

Has body and its stupidity, 

But body gone he sleeps no more, 

And till his intellect grows sure 

That all’s arranged in one clear view, 

pursues the thoughts that I pursue, 

Then stands in judgment on his soul, 

And, all work done, dismisses all 

Out of intellect and sight 

And sinks at last into the night. 


Into the night. 


O Rocky Voice, 

Shall we in that great night rejoice? 

What do we know but that we face 

One another in this place? 

But hush, for I have lost the theme, 

Its joy or night-seem but a dream; 

Up there some hawk or owl has struck, 

Dropping out of sky or rock, 

A stricken rabbit is crying out, 

And its cry distracts my thought.

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