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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?

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