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The Rose of the World -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1656) The Rose of the World
 Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?
 For these red lips, with all their mournful pride,
 Mournful that no new wonder may betide,
 Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,
 And Usna's children died.

 We and the labouring world are passing by:
 Amid men's souls, that waver and give place
 Like the pale waters in their wintry race,
 Under the passing stars, foam of the sky,
 Lives on this lonely face.

 Bow down, archangels, in your dim abode:
 Before you were, or any hearts to beat,
 Weary and kind one lingered by His seat;
 He made the world to be a grassy road
 Before her wandering feet.
-- William Butler Yeats
I was reading Yeats on Minstrels in honour of St. Patrick's day and realised
to my horror that the thirty or so poems of his on Minstrels did not include
one of my personal favourites - this one.

This is, quite simply, a beautiful poem. For starters, it's a wonderfully
melodic poem - with a soft cadence to the words and an intriguing rhyme
pattern (abba followed by that breathtaking shortened b again). Then there's
the vividness of the images - the crimson fire of the first stanza, the
gently rippling wake of the second and the verdant green of the third - and
the way that they mirror so perfectly the three stages of the poet's
emotion: the passion of the first stanza, the uncertainty and restlessness
of the second, the surrender of the third (elsewhere (Poem #597) Yeats
writes "I have spread my dreams under your feet / Tread softly, because you
tread on my dreams" - it's hard to read the last lines of this poem without
thinking of those lines).

But what makes this poem truly unforgettable for me is the question that it
opens with. It's an incredible first line; not just because it's so
memorable and sticks in your head forever, but because it sets the tone so
beautifully for what is to follow - the dreaminess, the sadness, the sense
of defeat, the sense of acceptance.

Aseem

[Links]

 For reference to Usna's children, see the story of Dierdre of
Sorrows:
http://www.irishmythology.com/Irish_Mythology_Conor_&_Deirdre_Page_2.htm

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