Hic.   ON the grey sand beside the shallow stream    
Under your old wind-beaten tower, where still    
A lamp burns on beside the open book    
That Michael Robartes left, you walk in the moon    
And though you have passed the best of life still trace        
Enthralled by the unconquerable delusion    
Magical shapes.    
 
Ille.   By the help of an image    
I call to my own opposite, summon all    
That I have handled least, least looked upon.    
 
Hic.   And I would find myself and not an image.    
 
Ille.   That is our modern hope and by its light    
We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind    
And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;    
Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush    
We are but critics, or but half create,    
Timid, entangled, empty and abashed    
Lacking the countenance of our friends.    
 
Hic.   And yet    
The chief imagination of Christendom     20
Dante Alighieri, so utterly found himself    
That he has made that hollow face of his    
More plain to the mind’s eye than any face    
But that of Christ.    
 
Ille.   And did he find himself,    
Or was the hunger that had made it hollow    
A hunger for the apple on the bough    
Most out of reach? and is that spectral image    
The man that Lapo and that Guido knew?    
I think he fashioned from his opposite    
An image that might have been a stony face,    
Staring upon a bedouin’s horse-hair roof    
From doored and windowed cliff, or half upturned    
Among the coarse grass and the camel dung.    
He set his chisel to the hardest stone.    
Being mocked by Guido for his lecherous life,    
Derided and deriding, driven out    
To climb that stair and eat that bitter bread,    
He found the unpersuadable justice, he found  
The most exalted lady loved by a man.  
 
Hic.   Yet surely there are men who have made their art    
Out of no tragic war, lovers of life,    
Impulsive men that look for happiness    
And sing when they have found it.    
 
Ille.   No, not sing,    
For those that love the world serve it in action,    
Grow rich, popular and full of influence,    
And should they paint or write still it is action:    
The struggle of the fly in marmalade.    
The rhetorician would deceive his neighbours,    
The sentimentalist himself; while art    
Is but a vision of reality.    
What portion in the world can the artist have    
Who has awakened from the common dream    
But dissipation and despair?    
 
Hic.   And yet    
No one denies to Keats love of the world;    
Remember his deliberate happiness.    
 
Ille.}}   His art is happy but who knows his mind?    
I see a schoolboy when I think of him,    
With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window,    
For certainly he sank into his grave    
His senses and his heart unsatisfied,    
And made—being poor, ailing and ignorant,    
Shut out from all the luxury of the world,    
The coarse-bred son of a livery stablekeeper—    
Luxuriant song.    
 
Hic.   Why should you leave the lamp    
Burning alone beside an open book    
And trace these characters upon the sands;    
A style is found by sedentary toil    
And by the imitation of great masters.    
 
Ille.   Because I seek an image, not a book.    
Those men that in their writings are most wise    
Own nothing but their blind, stupefied hearts.    
I call to the mysterious one who yet    
Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream    
And look most like me, being indeed my double,    
And prove of all imaginable things    
The most unlike, being my anti-self,    
And standing by these characters disclose    
All that I seek; and whisper it as though    
He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud    
Their momentary cries before it is dawn,    
Would carry it away to blasphemous men.

The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.

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