William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

Three Marching Songs


REMEMBER all those renowned generations,
They left their bodies to fatten the wolves,
They left their homesteads to fatten the foxes,
Fled to far countries, or sheltered themselves
In cavern, crevice, or hole,
Defending Ireland's soul.
Be still, be still, what can be said?
My father sang that song,
But time amends old wrong,
All that is finished, let it fade.
Remember all those renowned generations,
Remember all that have sunk in their blood,
Remember all that have died on the scaffold,
Remember all that have fled, that have stood,
Stood, took death like a tune
On an old,tambourine.
Be still, be still, what can be said?
My father sang that song,
But time amends old wrong,
And all that's finished, let it fade.
Fail, and that history turns into rubbish,
All that great past to a trouble of fools;
Those that come after shall mock at O'Donnell,
Mock at the memory of both O'Neills,
Mock Emmet, mock Parnell,
All the renown that fell.
Be still, be still, what can be said?
My father sang that song,
but time amends old wrong,
And all that's finished, let it fade.
The soldier takes pride in saluting his Captain,
The devotee proffers a knee to his Lord,
Some back a mare thrown from a thoroughbred,,
Troy backed its Helen; Troy died and adored;
Great nations blossom above;
A slave bows down to a slave.
What marches through the mountain pass?
No, no, my son, not yet;
That is an airy spot,
And no man knows what treads the grass.
We know what rascal might has defiled,
The lofty innocence that it has slain,
Were we not born in the peasant's cot
Where men forgive if the belly gain?
More dread the life that we live,
How can the mind forgive?
What marches down the mountain pass?
No, no, my son, not yet;
That is an airy spot,
And no man knows what treads the grass.
What if there's nothing up there at the top?
Where are the captains that govern mankind?
What tears down a tree that has nothing within it?
A blast of the wind, O a marching wind,
March wind, and any old tune.
March, march, and how does it run?
What marches down the mountain pass?
No, no, my son, not yet;
That is an airy spot,
And no man knows what treads the grass.

III
Grandfather sang it under the gallows:
'Hear, gentlemen, ladies, and all mankind:
Money is good and a girl might be better,
But good strong blows are delights to the mind.'
There, standing on the cart,
He sang it from his heart.
<1Robbers had taken his old tambourine,
But he took down the moon
And rattled out a tunc;
Robbers had taken his old tambourinc.>1
'A girl I had, but she followed another,
Money I had, and it went in the night,
Strong drink I had, and it brought me to sorrow,
But a good strong cause and blows are delight.'
All there caught up the tune:
'Oh, on, my darling man.'

Robbers had taken his old tambourine,
But he took down the moon
And rattled out a tune;>1
Robbers had taken his old tambourine.
'Money is good and a girl might be better,
No matter what happens and who takes the fall,
But a good strong cause' -- the rope gave a jerk there,
No more sang he, for his throat was too small;
But he kicked before he died,
He did it out of pride.
<1Robbers had taken his old tambourine,
But he took down the moon
And rattled out a tune;
Robbers had taken his old tambourine.

Submitted: Thursday, May 17, 2001
Edited: Thursday, May 17, 2001

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