top of page

The Cold Heaven / WB Yeats

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

On a very hot week in the UK, here is a deliciously cold poem. One of my favourites from Yeats, it is filled with dazzling phrases - “riddled with light” takes some beating. But also - as always with WBY it has a sinuous and puzzling logic that leaves you hanging in mystery by the end. How does that winter sky punish the recently deceased ghost?



Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven

That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,

And thereupon imagination and heart were driven

So wild that every casual thought of that and this

Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season

With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;

And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,

Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,

Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,

Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent

Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken

By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

269 views8 comments

Related Posts

See All

8 Comments


Gill Jewell
Gill Jewell
Jul 20, 2022

Gorgeous; thank you

Like

Trev
Trev
Jul 19, 2022

For me, it's more about the indifference of the skies. What more punishment could there be to our lives - in which we invest so much passion, so much heat - than for the sum of it to mean nothing in the face of something bigger? Lovely stuff, thanks Alistair. T x

Like
Alistair Appleton
Alistair Appleton
Jul 20, 2022
Replying to

That's it, of course. Thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes WB's logic leaves me a bit drugged.


Like

Thank for sharing the poem Alistair. Hot even in Scotland today. 30C just now where I live. Hoping it cools a bit by this evening when I am supposed to walking up a hill!

I love Yeats poetry. I was first introduced to it through a couple of his poems that had been set to music by the Canadian singer/songwriter Loreena Mckennit (whose music I love) - The Two Trees and The Stolen Child.

I am also singing "He wishes for the cloths of heaven" at a concert in September, which has also been set to music for one of the choirs I sing with.

Thank you for introducing me to a new one.

Like
Alistair Appleton
Alistair Appleton
Jul 20, 2022
Replying to

That's a beautiful poem. I was rather startled when a man approached me in a bar after a few drinks and recited the whole of "he wishes for the clothes of heaven" to me and then walked away!


Like

Gill Jewell
Gill Jewell
Jul 19, 2022

Alastair! One of his amazing poems; thanks .

Feeling for u all in the heat. Much of our land in Australia is ‘a sunburnt country‘ ( poem : DorotheaMackellar) is so hot a lot of the time. England’s just not used to it

Like

punish it with rain, hail, snow, stormy weather?

Like
Alistair Appleton
Alistair Appleton
Jul 20, 2022
Replying to

Yes that could be it too. IT's definitely a snowy sky he's describing.

Like
bottom of page