WB Yeats: The Stolen Child

The 14YO and the 8YO are away at their Granny’s right now, so the temptation is strong to while away the silence in the house by scrolling through Twitter. But I’m becoming increasingly aware of how much of my time is eaten up by social media surfing. So this morning I decided I’d do a different kind of browsing, and pick a book off my bookshelf to read over breakfast.

I chose this rather beautiful anthology of Yeats’ poetry, which I’ve not read much of since I bought it last Easter (from the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin, if you’re interested – a  delightfully bonkers place which I’d thoroughly recommend as a day out):


YB Yeats anthology: how pretty is this book?

And here’s an excerpt of the poem I read, The Stolen Child, drawing on the Irish myth of faeries carrying off the souls of mortal folk:


I’m not an expert on poetry so I can’t offer a critical analysis of this. It’s the call of the faeries, the little people, summoning away a child to their own mysterious realm. You can read it in full here  This morning when I read it, I thought it was lovely, if a little haunting, but a few hours later, late at night with my own children far away from me, it’s actually sending a shiver down my spine. The lilting rhythm of that first couplet in the refrain ‘Come away O human child!/ To the waters and the wild’ is slowed right down by the much longer following line ‘for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand’ – which creates an oddly sinister effect. The moonlight, the red berries and the leafy islands conjure up images of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market – a much longer narrative poem which is also a bit creepy.

The little I know about Yeats is that he didn’t rate Wilfred Owen as a poet (sharp intake of breath, I know right?!) and his decades-long obsession with Maud Gonne, during which he proposed not only to her but also to her daughter, is frankly a bit stalker-ish by today’s standards. But nevertheless, and even though this is an unsettling poem, it’s still oddly beautiful. And I feel much better for having read it than reading the latest Twitter spat between the Remainers and the Brexiteers .

The world is full of troubles and is anxious in its sleep…. 



3 thoughts on “WB Yeats: The Stolen Child

  1. Interesting. I’ll have to see if I can find a Kindle edition or an ebook. I have enough clutter as it is, I don’t need another physical book!


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