The Fisherman

By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939
Although I can see him still—
The freckled man who goes
To a gray place on a hill
In gray Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies—
It's long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.   
All day I'd looked in the face   
What I had hoped it would be   
To write for my own race   
And the reality:   
The living men that I hate,   
The dead man that I loved,   
The craven man in his seat,   
The insolent unreproved—
And no knave brought to book   
Who has won a drunken cheer—
The witty man and his joke   
Aimed at the commonest ear,   
The clever man who cries   
The catch cries of the clown,   
The beating down of the wise   
And great Art beaten down.

Maybe a twelve-month since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face
And gray Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark with froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream—
A man who does not exist,   
A man who is but a dream;   
And cried, “Before I am old   
I shall have written him one   
Poem maybe as cold   
And passionate as the dawn.”

Source: Poetry (February 1916).

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This poem originally appeared in the February 1916 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 1916
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    by William Laird
  • Gloom
    by Frank Stewart Flint
  • Cones
    by Frank Stewart Flint
 William Butler Yeats

Biography

William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the seventeenth century. Most members of this minority considered themselves English people who merely happened to have been born in Ireland, but Yeats was staunch in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Heroes & Patriotism, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Disappointment & Failure, Living

POET’S REGION Ireland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza, Metaphor

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