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?