We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
from Yeats “Adam’s Curse”
We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
from Yeats, “Adam’s Curse”
In every instant, two gates.
One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.
Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.
But the faint cries–ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?
“Bees” by Jane Hirshfield from The Lives of the Heart. © Harper Perennial, 1997.