Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
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1886 / Sligo

While The World Is Full Of Troubles

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Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats.
There we’ve hid our fairy vats
Full of berries,
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands, and mingling glances,
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap,
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles.
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen Car,
In pools among the rushes,
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout,
And whispering in their ears;
We give them evil dreams,
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Of dew on the young streams.
Come! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us, he’s going,
The solemn-eyed;
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside.
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast;
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

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About the Author

W. B. Yeats, “The Stolen Child.” Having published his first poems the year before, Yeats at the age of twenty-one published this poem in Irish Monthly, along with the note “The places mentioned are round about Sligo. Further, Rosses is a very noted fairy locality. There is here a little point of rocks where, if anyone falls asleep, there is a danger of them waking silly, the fairies having carried off their souls.” He helped to found the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899, became a senator in the new Irish Free State in 1922, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, is a soothsayer, an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts spells, consults ghosts or spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you.
Book of Deuteronomy, c. 620 BC
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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