Tag Archives: Yeats

Remembering Yeats


As I took my last final exam in my last and final quarter in college, I could hear the students who had already finished for the quarter outside whooping it up and cheering by the fountain

I couldn’t concentrate on my exam. It was a Women’s Lit class in a room built half underground, but I could see the blue sky through the upper windows and hear the shouting of students who were out on the lawn and near the water fountain, which spilled into a rushing pool. In my sleep-deprived, day-dreaming state, I actually pictured the students dancing in the pool – celebrating and splashing around. And I kept thinking of a line from Yeats: “… Flash fishlike; nymphs and satyrs copulating in the foam…” I had learned this from another class, 20th Century British and Irish Poetry. I never memorized the entire poem, but that rather shocking line always lingered.

I honestly do not know how I passed the Women’s Lit exam, and I was surprised to learn that I had aced the class. Perhaps I was inspired by Yeats. I will always remember him and associate his poem with that moment and my image of the youths by the fountain.



There all the golden codgers lay,

There the silver dew,

And the great water sighed for love,

And the wind sighed too.

Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed

By Oisin on the grass;

There sighed amid his choir of love

Tall Pythagoras.

Plotinus came and looked about,

The salt-flakes on his breast,

And having stretched and yawned awhile

Lay sighing like the rest.


Straddling each a dolphin’s back

And steadied by a fin,

Those Innocents re-live their death,

Their wounds open again.

The ecstatic waters laugh because

Their cries are sweet and strange,

Through their ancestral patterns dance,

And the brute dolphins plunge

Where wades the choir of love

Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,

They pitch their burdens off.


Slim adolescence that a nymph has stripped,

Peleus on Thetis stares.

Her limbs are delicate as an eyelid,

Love has blinded him with tears;

But Thetis’ belly listens.

Down the mountain walls

From where Pan’s cavern is

Intolerable music falls.

Foul goat-head, brutal arm appear,

Belly, shoulder, bum,

Flash fishlike; nymphs and satyrs

Copulate in the foam.


~ William Butler Yeats


{photo taken with my BlackBerry}