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Ego Dominus Tuus

by W. B. Yeats, 1919

Hic.on the grey sand beside the shallow stream
 Under your old wind-beaten tower, where still
 A lamp burns on beside the open book
 That Michael Robartes left, you walk in the moon
 And though you have passed the best of life still trace
 Enthralled by the unconquerable delusion
 Magical shapes.

 Ille.By the help of an image
 I call to my own opposite, summon all
 That I have handled least, least looked upon.

 Hic.And I would find myself and not an image.

 Ille.That is our modern hope and by its light
 We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind
 And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;
 Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush
 We are but critics, or but half create,
 Timid, entangled, empty and abashed
 Lacking the countenance of our friends.

 Hic.And yet
 The chief imagination of Christendom
 Dante Alighieri, so utterly found himself
 That he has made that hollow face of his
 More plain to the mind's eye than any face
 But that of Christ.

 Ille.And did he find himself,
 Or was the hunger that had made it hollow
 A hunger for the apple on the bough
 Most out of reach? and is that spectral image
 The man that Lapo and that Guido knew?
 I think he fashioned from his opposite
 An image that might have been a stony face,
 Staring upon a bedouin's horse-hair roof
 From doored and windowed cliff, or half upturned
 Among the coarse grass and the camel dung.
 He set his chisel to the hardest stone.
 Being mocked by Guido for his lecherous life,
 Derided and deriding, driven out
 To climb that stair and eat that bitter bread,
 He found the unpersuadable justice, he found
 The most exalted lady loved by a man.

 Hic.Yet surely there are men who have made their art
 Out of no tragic war, lovers of life,
 Impulsive men that look for happiness
 And sing when they have found it.

 Ille.No, not sing,
 For those that love the world serve it in action,
 Grow rich, popular and full of influence,
 And should they paint or write still it is action:
 The struggle of the fly in marmalade.
 The rhetorician would deceive his neighbours,
 The sentimentalist himself; while art
 Is but a vision of reality.
 What portion in the world can the artist have
 Who has awakened from the common dream
 But dissipation and despair?

 Hic.And yet
 No one denies to Keats love of the world;
 Remember his deliberate happiness.

 Ille.His art is happy but who knows his mind?
 I see a schoolboy when I think of him,
 With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window,
 For certainly he sank into his grave
 His senses and his heart unsatisfied,
 And made—being poor, ailing and ignorant,
 Shut out from all the luxury of the world,
 The coarse-bred son of a livery stablekeeper—
 Luxuriant song.

 Hic.Why should you leave the lamp
 Burning alone beside an open book
 And trace these characters upon the sands;
 A style is found by sedentary toil
 And by the imitation of great masters.

 Ille.Because I seek an image, not a book.
 Those men that in their writings are most wise
 Own nothing but their blind, stupefied hearts.
 I call to the mysterious one who yet
 Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream
 And look most like me, being indeed my double,
 And prove of all imaginable things
 The most unlike, being my anti-self,
 And standing by these characters disclose
 All that I seek; and whisper it as though
 He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud
 Their momentary cries before it is dawn,
 Would carry it away to blasphemous men.

Published in The Wild Swans at Coole

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