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

William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

The White Birds


I WOULD that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea:

We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can pass by and flee;

And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky,

Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that never may die.

A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose,

Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,

Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:

For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam—I and you.

I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,

Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more:

Soon far from the rose and the lily, the fret of the flames, would we be,

Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea.