The Wanderings Of Oisin: Book I Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


S Patrick You who are bent and bald and blindA
With a heavy heart and a wandering mindA
Have known three centuries poets singB
Of dalliance with a demon thingB
Oisin Sad to remember sick with yearsC
The swift innumerable spearsC
The horsemen with their floating hairD
And bowls of barley honey and wineE
Those merry couples dancing in tuneF
And the white body that lay by mineE
But the tale though words be lighter than airD
Must live to be old like the wandering moonF
Caoilte and Conan and Finn were thereD
When we followed a deer with our baying houndsG
With Bran Sceolan and LomairD
And passing the Firbolgs' burial motmdsG
Came to the cairn heaped grassy hillH
Where passionate Maeve is stony stillH
And found On the dove grey edge of the seaG
A pearl pale high born lady who rodeI
On a horse with bridle of findrinnyF
And like a sunset were her lipsG
A stormy sunset on doomed shipsG
A citron colour gloomed in her hairD
But down to her feet white vesture flowedI
And with the glimmering crimson glowedI
Of many a figured embroideryG
And it was bound with a pearl pale shellJ
That wavered like the summer streamsG
As her soft bosom rose and fellJ
S Patrick You are still wrecked among heathen dreamsG
Oisin 'Why do you wind no horn ' she saidK
'And every hero droop his headK
The hornless deer is not more sadL
That many a peaceful moment hadL
More sleek than any granary mouseG
In his own leafy forest houseG
Among the waving fields of fernF
The hunting of heroes should be glad '-
'O pleasant woman ' answered FinnF
'We think on Oscar's pencilled urnF
And on the heroes lying slainF
On Gabhra's raven covered plainF
But where are your noble kith and kinF
And from what country do you ride '-
'My father and my mother areD
Aengus and Edain my own nameM
Niamh and my country farD
Beyond the tumbling of this tide '-
'What dream came with you that you cameM
Through bitter tide on foam wet feetN
Did your companion wander awayO
From where the birds of Aengus wing '-
Thereon did she look haughty and sweetN
'I have not yet war weary kingB
Been spoken of with any manF
Yet now I choose for these four feetN
Ran through the foam and ran to thisG
That I might have your son to kiss '-
'Were there no better than my sonF
That you through all that foam should run '-
'I loved no man though kings besoughtN
Until the Danaan poets broughtN
Rhyme that rhymed upon Oisin's nameM
And now I am dizzy with the thoughtN
Of all that wisdom and the fameM
Of battles broken by his handsG
Of stories builded by his wordsG
That are like coloured Asian birdsG
At evening in their rainless lands '-
O Patrick by your brazen bellJ
There was no limb of mine but fellJ
Into a desperate gulph of loveP
'You only will I wed ' I criedN
'And I will make a thousand songsG
And set your name all names aboveP
And captives bound with leathern thongsG
Shall kneel and praise you one by oneF
At evening in my western dun '-
'O Oisin mount by me and rideN
To shores by the wash of the tremulous tideN
Where men have heaped no burial moundsG
And the days pass by like a wayward tuneF
Where broken faith has never been knownF
And the blushes of first love never have flownF
And there I will give you a hundred houndsG
No mightier creatures bay at the moonF
And a hundred robes of murmuring silkQ
And a hundred calves and a hundred sheepR
Whose long wool whiter than sea froth flowsG
And a hundred spears and a hundred bowsG
And oil and wine and honey and milkQ
And always never anxious sleepR
While a hundred youths mighty of limbS
But knowing nor tumult nor hate nor strifeT
And a hundred ladies merry as birdsG
Who when they dance to a fitful measureD
Have a speed like the speed of the salmon herdsG
Shall follow your horn and obey your whimS
And you shall know the Danaan leisureD
And Niamh be with you for a wife '-
Then she sighed gently 'It grows lateN
Music and love and sleep awaitN
Where I would be when the white moon climbsG
The red sun falls and the world grows dim '-
And then I mounted and she bound meG
With her triumphing arms around meG
And whispering to herself enwound meG
He shook himself and neighed three timesG
Caoilte Conan and Finn came nearD
And wept and raised their lamenting handsG
And bid me stay with many a tearD
But we rode out from the human landsG
In what far kingdom do you go'Q
Ah Fenians with the shield and bowU
Or are you phantoms white as snowF
Whose lips had life's most prosperous glowF
O you with whom in sloping vallcysG
Or down the dewy forest alleysG
I chased at morn the flying deerD
With whom I hurled the hurrying spearD
And heard the foemen's bucklers rattleV
And broke the heaving ranks of battleV
And Bran Sceolan and LomairD
Where are you with your long rough hairD
You go not where the red deer feedsG
Nor tear the foemen from their steedsG
S Patrick Boast not nor mourn with drooping headN
Companions long accurst and deadN
And hounds for centuries dust and airD
Oisin We galloped over the glossy seaG
I know not if days passed or hoursG
And Niamh sang continuallyG
Danaan songs and their dewy showersG
Of pensive laughter unhuman soundN
Lulled weariness and softly roundN
My human sorrow her white arms woundN
We galloped now a hornless deerD
Passed by us chased by a phantom houndN
All pearly white save one red earD
And now a lady rode like the windN
With an apple of gold in her tossing handN
And a beautiful young man followed behindN
With quenchless gaze and fluttering hairD
'Were these two born in the Danaan landN
Or have they breathed the mortal air '-
'Vex them no longer ' Niamh saidN
And sighing bowed her gentle headN
And sighing laid the pearly tipW
Of one long finger on my lipW
But now the moon like a white rose shoneF
In the pale west and the sun'S rim sankQ
And clouds atrayed their rank on rankQ
About his fading crimson ballX
The floor of Almhuin's hosting hallX
Was not more level than the seaG
As full of loving fantasyG
And with low murmurs we rode onF
Where many a trumpet twisted shellJ
That in immortal silence sleepsG
Dreaming of her own melting huesG
Her golds her ambers and her bluesG
Pierced with soft light the shallowing deepsG
But now a wandering land breeze cameM
And a far sound of feathery quiresG
It seemed to blow from the dying flameM
They seemed to sing in the smouldering firesG
The horse towards the music racedN
Neighing along the lifeless wasteN
Like sooty fingers many a treeG
Rose ever out of the warm seaG
And they were trembling ceaselesslyG
As though they all were beating timeY
Upon the centre of the sunF
To that low laughing woodland rhymeY
And now our wandering hours were doneF
We cantered to the shore and knewF
The reason of the trembling treesG
Round every branch the song birds flewF
Or clung thereon like swarming beesG
While round the shore a million stoodN
Like drops of frozen rainbow lightN
And pondered in a soft vain moodN
Upon their shadows in the tideN
And told the purple deeps their prideN
And murmured snatches of delightN
And on the shores were many boatsG
With bending sterns and bending bowsG
And carven figures on their prowsG
Of bitterns and fish eating stoatsG
And swans with their exultant throatsG
And where the wood and waters meetN
We tied the horse in a leafy clumpZ
And Niamh blew three merry notesG
Out of a little silver trumpZ
And then an answering whispering flewF
Over the bare and woody landN
A whisper of impetuous feetN
And ever nearer nearer grewF
And from the woods rushed out a bandN
Of men and ladies hand in handN
And singing singing all togetherD
Their brows were white as fragrant milkQ
Their cloaks made out of yellow silkQ
And trimmed with many a crimson featherD
And when they saw the cloak I woreD
Was dim with mire of a mortal shoreD
They fingered it and gazed on meG
And laughed like murmurs of the seaG
But Niamh with a swift distressG
Bid them away and hold their peaceG
And when they heard her voice they ranF
And knelt there every girl and manF
And kissed as they would never ceaseG
Her pearl pale hand and the hem of her dressG
She bade them bring us to the hallX
Where Aengus dreams from sun to sunF
A Druid dream of the end of daysG
When the stars are to wane and the world be doneF
They led us by long and shadowy waysG
Where drops of dew in myriads fallX
And tangled creepers every hourD
Blossom in some new crimson flowerD
And once a sudden laughter sprangQ
From all their lips and once they sangQ
Together while the dark woods rangQ
And made in all their distant partsG
With boom of bees in honey martsG
A rumour of delighted heartsG
And once a lady by my sideN
Gave me a harp and bid me singQ
And touch the laughing silver stringQ
But when I sang of human joyA2
A sorrow wrapped each merry faceG
And patrick by your beard they weptN
Until one came a tearful boyA2
'A sadder creature never steptN
Than this strange human bard ' he criedN
And caught the silver harp awayO
And weeping over the white strings hurledN
It down in a leaf hid hollow placeG
That kept dim waters from the skyQ
And each one said with a long long sighQ
'O saddest harp in all the worldN
Sleep there till the moon and the stars die '-
And now still sad we came to whereD
A beautiful young man dreamed withinF
A house of wattles clay and skinF
One hand upheld his beardless chinF
And one a sceptre flashing outN
Wild flames of red and gold and blueF
Like to a merry wandering routN
Of dancers leaping in the airD
And men and ladies knelt them thereD
And showed their eyes with teardrops dimS
And with low murmurs prayed to himS
And kissed the sceptre with red lipsG
And touched it with their finger tipsG
He held that flashing sceptre upB2
'Joy drowns the twilight in the dewF
And fills with stars night's purple cupB2
And wakes the sluggard seeds of cornF
And stirs the young kid's budding hornF
And makes the infant ferns unwrapC2
And for the peewit paints his capC2
And rolls along the unwieldy sunF
And makes the little planets runF
And if joy were not on the earthD2
There were an end of change and birthD2
And Earth and Heaven and Hell would dieQ
And in some gloomy barrow lieQ
Folded like a frozen flyQ
Then mock at Death and Time with glancesG
And wavering arms and wandering dancesG
'Men's hearts of old were drops of flameM
That from the saffron morning cameM
Or drops of silver joy that fellJ
Out of the moon's pale twisted shellJ
But now hearts cry that hearts are slavesG
And toss and turn in narrow cavesG
But here there is nor law nor ruleE2
Nor have hands held a weary toolE2
And here there is nor Change nor DeathF2
But only kind and merry breathF2
For joy is God and God is joy '-
With one long glance for girl and boyA2
And the pale blossom of the moonF
He fell into a Druid swoonF
And in a wild and sudden danceG
We mocked at Time and Fate and ChanceG
And swept out of the wattled hallX
And came to where the dewdrops fallX
Among the foamdrops of the seaG
And there we hushed the revelryG
And gathering on our brows a frownF
Bent all our swaying bodies downF
And to the waves that glimmer byQ
That sloping green De Danaan sodN
Sang 'God is joy and joy is GodN
And things that have grown sad are wickedN
And things that fear the dawn of the morrowD
Or the grey wandering osprey Sorrow '-
We danced to where in the winding thicketN
The damask roses bloom on bloomG2
Like crimson meteors hang in the gloomG2
And bending over them softly saidN
Bending over them in the danceG
With a swift and friendly glanceG
From dewy eyes 'Upon the deadN
Fall the leaves of other rosesG
On the dead dim earth enclosesG
But never never on our gravesG
Heaped beside the glimmering wavesG
Shall fall the leaves of damask rosesG
For neither Death nor Change comes near usG
And all listless hours fear usG
And we fear no dawning morrowD
Nor the grey wandering osprey Sorrow '-
The dance wound through the windless woodsG
The ever summered solitudesG
Until the tossing arms grew stillH
Upon the woody central hillH
And gathered in a panting bandN
We flung on high each waving handN
And sang unto the starry broodsG
In our raised eyes there flashed a glowD
Of milky brightness to and froD
As thus our song arose 'You starsG
Across your wandering ruby carsG
Shake the loose reins you slaves of GodN
He rules you with an iron rodN
He holds you with an iron bondN
Each one woven to the otherD
Each one woven to his brotherD
Like bubbles in a frozen pondN
But we in a lonely land abideN
Unchainable as the dim tideN
With hearts that know nor law nor ruleE2
And hands that hold no wearisome toolE2
Folded in love that fears no morrowD
Nor the grey wandering osprey Sorrow '-
O Patrick for a hundred yearsG
I chased upon that woody shoreD
The deer the badger and the boarD
O patrick for a hundred yearsG
At evening on the glimmering sandsG
Beside the piled up hunting spearsG
These now outworn and withered handsG
Wrestled among the island bandsG
O patrick for a hundred yearsG
We went a fishing in long boatsG
With bending sterns and bending bowsG
And carven figures on their prowsG
Of bitterns and fish eating stoatsG
O patrick for a hundred yearsG
The gentle Niamh was my wifeT
But now two things devour my lifeT
The things that most of all I hateN
Fasting and prayersG
S Patrick Tell onF
Oisin Yes yesG
For these were ancient Oisin's fateN
Loosed long ago from Heaven's gateN
For his last days to lie in waitN
When one day by the tide I stoodN
I found in that forgetfulnessG
Of dreamy foam a staff of woodN
From some dead warrior's broken lanceG
I tutned it in my hands the stainsG
Of war were on it and I weptN
Remembering how the Fenians steptN
Along the blood bedabbled plainsG
Equal to good or grievous chanceG
Thereon young Niamh softly cameM
And caught my hands but spake no wordN
Save only many times my nameM
In murmurs like a frighted birdN
We passed by woods and lawns of cloverD
And found the horse and bridled himS
For we knew well the old was overD
I heard one say 'His eyes grow dimS
With all the ancient sorrow of men'F
And wrapped in dreams rode out againF
With hoofs of the pale findrinnyF
Over the glimmering purple seaG
Under the golden evening lightN
The Immortals moved among thc fountainsG
By rivers and the woods' old nightN
Some danced like shadows on the mountainsG
Some wandered ever hand in handN
Or sat in dreams on the pale strandN
Each forehead like an obscure starD
Bent down above each hooked kneeG
And sang and with a dreamy gazeG
Watched where the sun in a saffron blazeG
Was slumbering half in the sea waysG
And as they sang the painted birdsG
Kept time with their bright wings and feetN
Like drops of honey came their wordsG
But fainter than a young lamb's bleatN
'An old man stirs the fire to a blazeG
In the house of a child of a friend of a brotherD
He has over lingered his welcome the daysG
Grown desolate whisper and sigh to each otherD
He hears the storm in the chimney aboveP
And bends to the fire and shakes with the coldN
While his heart still dreams of battle and loveP
And the cry of the hounds on the hills of oldN
But We are apart in the grassy placesG
Where care cannot trouble the least of our daysG
Or the softness of youth be gone from our facesG
Or love's first tenderness die in our gazeG
The hare grows old as she plays in the sunF
And gazes around her with eyes of brightnessG
Before the swift things that she dreamed of were doneF
She limps along in an aged whitenessG
A storm of birds in the Asian treesG
Like tulips in the air a wingingQ
And the gentle waves of the summer seasG
That raise their heads and wander singingQ
Must murmur at last Unjust unjustN
And My speed is a weariness falters the mouseG
And the kingfisher turns to a ball of dustN
And the roof falls in of his tunnelled houseG
But the love dew dims our eyes till the dayN
When God shall come from the Sea with a sighQ
And bid the stars drop down from the skyQ
And the moon like a pale rose wither away '-

William Butler Yeats


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