When I was a university student, in the last century, I began to read the work of William Butler Yeats. The girl in me loved the early poems with their Celtic mysticism and their languorous, well, Romanticism:
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
But the scholar in me was perhaps more drawn to the late poems. In them I found political engagement, a sense of regret at the passing of time, and an extraordinary piercing summing up: “Now that my ladder’s gone, / I must lie down where all the ladders start / In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”
But this morning I found this beautiful setting of his poem, “The Song of Wandering Aengus”(from the 1899 collection, The Wind Among the Reeds), and I was that girl again, briefly. But also someone who recognizes how ghosts do visit, girls with apple blossom in their hair, or long-lost friends, parents, even the golden dog I see out my window, sniffing the new logs in the woodshed (and who has been dead for 7 years), and how it can be comforting to welcome them back, even for a brief moment. And given how I am feeling these days — reminded every minute of my own mortality — I want those old ghosts to visit, want all the memories to fill my house (and woodshed), and so I will listen to Christy Moore over and over again:
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 someone 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.