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Featured Poem: The White Birds by W. B. Yeats

Written by The Reader, 24th August 2017

This week, our Featured Poem is The White Birds by W.B. Yeats, brought to you this week by Andrew Parsons - one of our Story Hunters and Marketing Interns.

A lesser-known poem this week from W.B. Yeats, written for “his great unrequited love”, Maude Gonne. Yeats scribed this poem in the days that followed his first of four unsuccessful proposals to Ms Gonne in 1892 during a walk along the cliffs of Howth, Ireland.

Ms Gonne declared her love of seagulls above all other birds to Yeats during their will-they-won’t-they friendship, and so he penned this poem for her.

The poem captures Yeats’ desire to both be free from the world, with its pressures and ephemeral pleasures, and to be forever entwined with his ‘beloved’ Maude, bobbing up and down on the sea, enjoying the gentle undulations of life together.

I think we can all relate to Yeats’ longing for long-term contentment, freedom from the many stresses of life and to be able to share that happiness with a loved one. But perhaps if the girl has turned you down four times, it’s time to find another seagull to propose to…

The White Birds

I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea! We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee; And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky, Has awakened in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.

A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose; Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes, Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew: For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!

I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore, Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more; Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be, Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!

by W.B. Yeats

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