William Butler Yeats

Here you will find the Long Poem The Shadowy Waters: The Shadowy Waters of poet William Butler Yeats

The Shadowy Waters: The Shadowy Waters

A Dramatic Poem

The deck of an ancient ship. At the right of the stage is the mast,
with a large square sail hiding a great deal of the sky and sea
on that side. The tiller is at the left of the stage; it is a long oar
coming through an opening in the bulwark. The deck rises in a
series of steps hehind the tiller, and the stern of the ship curves
overhead. When the play opens there are four persons upon the
deck. Aibric stands by the tiller. Forgael sleeps upon the raised
portion of the deck towards the front of the stage. Two Sailors
are standing near to the mast, on which a harp is hanging.

First Sailor. Has he not led us into these waste seas
 For long enough?

Second Sailor. Aye, long and long enough.

First Sailor. We have not come upon a shore or ship
 These dozen weeks.

Second Sailor. And I had thought to make
 A good round Sum upon this cruise, and turn -
 For I am getting on in life - to something
 That has less ups and downs than robbery.

First Sailor. I am so tired of being bachelor
 I could give all my heart to that Red Moll
 That had but the one eye.

Second Sailor. Can no bewitchment
 Transform these rascal billows into women
 That I may drown myself?

First Sailor. Better steer home,
 Whether he will or no; and better still
 To take him while he sleeps and carry him
 And drop him from the gunnel.

Second Sailor. I dare not do it.
 Were't not that there is magic in his harp,
 I would be of your mind; but when he plays it
 Strange creatures flutter up before one's eyes,
 Or cry about one's ears.

First Sailor. Nothing to fear.

Second Sailor. Do you remember when we sank that
 At the full moon?

First Sailor. He played all through the night.

Second Sailor. Until the moon had set; and when I looked
 Where the dead drifted, I could see a bird
 Like a grey gull upon the breast of each.
 While I was looking they rose hurriedly,
 And after circling with strange cries awhile
 Flew westward; and many a time since then
 I've heard a rustling overhead in the wind.

First Sailor. I saw them on that night as well as you.
 But when I had eaten and drunk myself asleep
 My courage came again.

Second Sailor. But that's not all.
 The other night, while he was playing it,
 A beautiful young man and girl came up
 In a white breaking wave; they had the look
 Of those that are alive for ever and ever.

First Sailor. I saw them, too, one night. Forgael was
 And they were listening ther& beyond the sail.
 He could not see them, but I held out my hands
 To grasp the woman.

Second Sailor. You have dared to touch her?

First Sailor. O she was but a shadow, and slipped from

Second Sailor. But were you not afraid?

First Sailor. Why should I fear?

Second Sailor. "Twas Aengus and Edain, the wandering
 To whom all lovers pray.

First Sailor. But what of that?
 A shadow does not carry sword or spear.

Second Sailor. My mother told me that there is not one
 Of the Ever-living half so dangerous
 As that wild Aengus. Long before her day
 He carried Edain off from a king's house,
 And hid her among fruits of jewel-stone
 And in a tower of glass, and from that day
 Has hated every man that's not in love,
 And has been dangerous to him.

First Sailor. I have heard
 He does not hate seafarers as he hates
 Peaceable men that shut the wind away,
 And keep to the one weary marriage-bed.

Second Sailor. I think that he has Forgael in his net,
 And drags him through the sea,

First Sailor Well, net or none,
 I'd drown him while we have the chance to do it.

Second Sailor. It's certain I'd sleep easier o' nights
 If he were dead; but who will be our captain,
 Judge of the stars, and find a course for us?

First Sailor. I've thought of that. We must have Aibric
 with us,
 For he can judge the stars as well as Forgael.

 [Going towards Aibric.]

 Become our captain, Aibric. I am resolved
 To make an end of Forgael while he sleeps.
 There's not a man but will be glad of it
 When it is over, nor one to grumble at us.

Aibric. You have taken pay and made your bargain for it.

First Sailor. What good is there in this hard way of
 Unless we drain more flagons in a year
 And kiss more lips than lasting peaceable men
 In their long lives? Will you be of our troop
 And take the captain's share of everything
 And bring us into populous seas again?

Aibric. Be of your troop! Aibric be one of you
 And Forgael in the other scale! kill Forgael,
 And he my master from my childhood up!
 If you will draw that sword out of its scabbard
 I'll give my answer.

First Sailor. You have