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W.B. Yeats

William Butler Years (1865-1939) was a famous Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. Being among those rare writers to be greatly appreciated during his or her lifetime, Yeats was known for his tightly crafted lines, his use of imagery (sparse yet haunting), and a frankness in address.     Collected Poems[ Click to Order The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (soft $) ]

The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon
The creeping cat looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For wander and wail as he would
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass,
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.
1919. The Wild Swans at Coole.

Behind this poem's formal structure of end-rhyme (and off-rhyme like "top" and "up"), and somewhat simplistic topic belies its effectiveness as a poem that compares the mystery and the coldness of the moom to that of the cat. The almost sinister last line evokes the changing of the moon: its active wax and wane, its slip behind the clouds. In this way, we know the cat, which ignores its "owner" with regal certainty only to turn minutes or hours later to our laps or rubbing at our feet.

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William Butler Yeats
This site is devoted to the Irish lyrical poet and dramatist, including a sample of poetry, articles, reviews, and study guides, plus online works.

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