William Butler Yeats: The Stolen Child


Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim 

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

2 thoughts on “William Butler Yeats: The Stolen Child

    • Thanks for commenting, Alice.

      The portrayal of fairies varies differently from culture to culture and even in the same culture depending on the era.

      Some might view the fairies in the poem as a symbol of warning as to all the terrible things that can befall a child if he/she strays away from the protection of the parents. The idea of the changeling reinforces that.

      The way I interpret it, the fairy in the poem functions as a symbol of a world devoid of the troubles, worries and misery of humanity. It’s like the fairyland is a kind of Eden and the child, by going there, retains the innocence and benevolence of childhood and avoids the anxiety of the adult life.

      Like

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