Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Folk of the Air

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

The Folk of the Air


O’DRISCOLL drove with a song

The wild duck and the drake

From the tall and the tufted weeds

Of the drear Heart Lake.

And he saw how the weeds grew dark

At the coming of night tide,

And he dreamed of the long dim hair

Of Bridget his bride.

He heard while he sang and dreamed

A piper piping away,

And never was piping so sad,

And never was piping so gay.

And he saw young men and young girls

Who danced on a level place,

And Bridget his bride among them,

With a sad and a gay face.

The dancers crowded about him,

And many a sweet thing said,

And a young man brought him red wine,

And a young girl white bread.

But Bridget drew him by the sleeve,

Away from the merry bands,

To old men playing at cards

With a twinkling of ancient hands.

The bread and the wine had a doom,

For these were the folk of the air;

He sat and played in a dream

Of her long dim hair.

He played with the merry old men,

And thought not of evil chance,

Until one bore Bridget his bride

Away from the merry dance.

He bore her away in his arms,

The handsomest young man there,

And his neck and his breast and his arms

Were drowned in her long dim hair.

O’Driscoll got up from the grass

And scattered the cards with a cry;

But the old men and dancers were gone

As a cloud faded into the sky.

He knew now the folk of the air,

And his heart was blackened by dread,

And he ran to the door of his house;

Old women were keening the dead;

But he heard high up in the air

A piper piping away;

And never was piping so sad

And never was piping so gay.