Owen Aherne and his Dancers

A strange thing surely that my Heart, when love had come unsought
Upon the Norman upland or in that poplar shade,
Should find no burden but itself and yet should be worn out.
It could not bear that burden and therefore it went mad.
The south wind brought it longing, and the east wind despair,
The west wind made it pitiful, and the north wind afraid.
It feared to give its love a hurt with all the tempest there;
It feared the hurt that she could give and therefore it went mad.
I can exchange opinion with any neighbouring mind,
I have as healthy flesh and blood as any rhymer’s had,
But O! my Heart could bear no more when the upland caught the wind;
I ran, I ran, from my love’s side because my Heart went mad.
The Heart behind its rib laughed out. “You have called me mad,” it said.
“Because I made you turn away and run from that young child;
How could she mate with fifty years that was so wildly bred?
Let the cage bird and the cage bird mate and the wild bird mate in the wild.”
“You but imagine lies all day, O murderer,” I replied.
“And all those lies have but one end, poor wretches to betray;
I did not find in any cage the woman at my side.
O but her heart would break to learn my thoughts are far away.”
“Speak all your mind,” my Heart sang out, “speak all your mind; who cares,
Now that your tongue cannot persuade the child till she mistake
Her childish gratitude for love and match your fifty years?
O let her choose a young man now and all for his wild sake.”

A Closer Look: Tracking Major Changes

W.B Yeats’ “Owen Aherne and his Dancers” first appeared in The Dial in November 1920 and the title appeared before July 1929 when the periodical ceased production. In addition, it appeared in The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems (1924) where two sections were left unnumbered, originally titled “The Lover Speaks” and “The Heart Replies.”

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