Love, faith, truth. The eternal search. A poem by William Butler Yeats

There are poems that inspired music and composers. Not a surprise, since music is but a noble extension of poetry itself. But there are particulary poems or collections that had a special fortune with particular composers and singers. In Europe, we can mention the music version of Victor Hugo’s Gastibelza and Paul Verlaine’s Colombine, made songs by the French composer and singer George Brassin, among the most famous. In Italy the prematurely died and regretted Fabrizio De André sang an entire album with the texts of “Spoon River Anthology” by the American poet Edgar Lee Masters. And we can find just googling the words MUSIC FAMOUS POEMS a list of notable examples of this kind.

There are poems and poets who had, though, a particular luck with the contemporary music. One of them is the Irish William Butler Yeats, whose poems were sang in different countries and languages (and styles). One of his most famous poems is “Song of Wandering Aengus”, that became the text of one of the most sold poems-inspired albums in Italy (by Franco Battiato) and the post folk rock song by the English band “The waterboys”.

Here is the full text:

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

This poem belongs to the nobel prize-winning poet’s early works, and it has as a symbolic protagonist, the Irish myth of ever young Aegnus. He is though sank by Yeats in the mortality of human kind. He searches the maiden he’s seen in a night dream just like in the Irish legend, but unlike the legend he’s not always young and immortal. His fruitless search is affected infact by the passing of time.

The final positive and hopeful prevision to be able to meet and kiss her, finally, maybe refers to the after-life, the only (eventual) reward for all of mankind fruitless searches and frustrations in the christian moral. The closeness of Christianity may be read also in the “apple” methaphor.

The presence of christian methaphors doesn’t prevent Yeats to drop its poetry into the fascinating liquor of the occult symbols: infact the moon (the silver apples ) and the sun (golden apples), are know in the field of occult circles as representative  of impulse (the former) and rationality (the latter).

The Aengus-poet here says he got both of them.

Maybe that’s why he goes,old and tired, towards the end without regrets. Only a strong melancholy, like the one of an old mortal man at the end of a life is the general mood of this earthly Aengus, when, at the end of a travel, still hasn’t found what he’s been looking for. Love, faith, truth.