Thursday, January 27, 2022

W. B. Yeats' The Stolen Child (#poem)


The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, etc.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, etc.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

-W. B. Yeats

Wilson discussed the poem in Axel's Castle as representative of Yeats' early verse. (Yeats wrote it in 1886.) It's been a bit of an ear-worm for me since then, especially the chorus.

It's been set to music several times. I know the Waterboys' version pretty well (from Fishermen's Blues), but in looking for it, I came across this lovely version by Loreena McKennitt:


  1. Gorgeous! Thanks for including the lovely vid too.

    1. It's a great poem

      She has such a lovely voice. She's Canadian, too. I'd never heard of her before.

  2. Read it for the first time. Found it scary.

    1. Always a bit dicey when you head off to faery-land. Tam Lin, Thomas the Rhymer...

  3. Replies
    1. Waters, wilds, clothes cupboards--just sneak away from it all!

  4. I love that Loreena McKennitt version! Her voice is perfect for poems like this one. :)

  5. I love this! It takes you somewhere magical. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. Lovely poem (although I've not read much of his poetry, I love Yeats) with an appropriately uncanny musical treatment (I join the consensus that the singer has the perfect voice for this piece). Thanks for sharing!
    I've always liked the darker aspect of faery. Old favorite in this vein is Sylvia Townsend Warner; new one is Michael Swanwick's Iron Dragon's Daughter.

    1. Sylvia Townsend Warner is pretty great (and not just because of the name...) I'll have to check out Michael Swanwick.