Collected Poems, by William Butler Yeats

The Statues

PYTHAGORAS planned it. Why did the people stare?

His numbers, though they moved or seemed to move

In marble or in bronze, lacked character.

But boys and girls, pale from the imagined love

Of solitary beds, knew what they were,

That passion could bring character enough,

And pressed at midnight in some public place

Live lips upon a plummet-measured face.

No! Greater than Pythagoras, for the men

That with a mallet or a chisel” modelled these

Calculations that look but casual flesh, put down

All Asiatic vague immensities,

And not the banks of oars that swam upon

The many-headed foam at Salamis.

Europe put off that foam when Phidias

Gave women dreams and dreams their looking-glass.

One image crossed the many-headed, sat

Under the tropic shade, grew round and slow,

No Hamlet thin from eating flies, a fat

Dreamer of the Middle Ages. Empty eyeballs knew

That knowledge increases unreality, that

Mirror on mirror mirrored is all the show.

When gong and conch declare the hour to bless

Grimalkin crawls to Buddha’s emptiness.

When Pearse summoned Cuchulain to his side.

What stalked through the post Office? What intellect,

What calculation, number, measurement, replied?

We Irish, born into that ancient sect

But thrown upon this filthy modern tide

And by its formless spawning fury wrecked,

Climb to our proper dark, that we may trace

The lineaments of a plummet-measured face.

April 9,

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02