William Butler Yeats

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

Upon A Dying Lady


I
Her Courtesy

WITH the old kindness, the old distinguished grace,
She lies, her lovely piteous head amid dull red hair
propped upon pillows, rouge on the pallor of her face.
She would not have us sad because she is lying there,
And when she meets our gaze her eyes are laughter-lit,
Her speech a wicked tale that we may vie with her,
Matching our broken-hearted wit against her wit,
Thinking of saints and of petronius Arbiter.

II
Curtain Artist bring her Dolls and Drawings
Bring where our Beauty lies
A new modelled doll, or drawing,
With a friend's or an enemy's
Features, or maybe showing
Her features when a tress
Of dull red hair was flowing
Over some silken dress
Cut in the Turkish fashion,
Or, it may be, like a boy's.
We have given the world our passion,
We have naught for death but toys.

III
She turns the Dolls' Faces to the Wall
Because to-day is some religious festival
They had a priest say Mass, and even the Japanese,
Heel up and weight on toe, must face the wall
-- Pedant in passion, learned in old courtesies,
Vehement and witty she had seemed -- ; the Venetian lady
Who had seemed to glide to some intrigue in her red shoes,
Her domino, her panniered skirt copied from Longhi;
The meditative critic; all are on their toes,
Even our Beauty with her Turkish trousers on.
Because the priest must have like every dog his day
Or keep us all awake with baying at the moon,
We and our dolls being but the world were best away.

IV
The End of Day
She is playing like a child
And penance is the play,
Fantastical and wild
Because the end of day
Shows her that some one soon
Will come from the house, and say --
Though play is but half done --
'Come in and leave the play.'

V
Her Race
She has not grown uncivil
As narrow natures would
And called the pleasures evil
Happier days thought good;
She knows herself a woman,
No red and white of a face,
Or rank, raised from a common
Vnreckonable race;
And how should her heart fail her
Or sickness break her will
With her dead brother's valour
For an example still?

VI
Her Courage
When her soul flies to the predestined dancing-place
(I have no speech but symbol, the pagan speech I made
Amid the dreams of youth) let her come face to face,
Amid that first astonishment, with Grania's shade,
All but the terrors of the woodland flight forgot
That made her Diatmuid dear, and some old cardinal
Pacing with half-closed eyelids in a sunny spot
Who had murmured of Giorgione at his latest breath --
Aye, and Achilles, Timor, Babar, Barhaim, all
Who have lived in joy and laughed into the face of Death.

VII
Her Friends bring her a Christmas Tree
pardon, great enemy,
Without an angry thought
We've carried in our tree,
And here and there have bought
Till all the boughs are gay,
And she may look from the bed
On pretty things that may
please a fantastic head.
Give her a little grace,
What if a laughing eye
Have looked into your face?
It is about to die.

Submitted: Thursday, May 17, 2001

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