Verse > W.B. Yeats > The Wild Swans at Coole
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W.B. Yeats (1865–1939).  The Wild Swans at Coole.  1919.

32. Upon a Dying Lady


I
Her Courtesy


WITH the old kindness, the old distinguished grace
 
She lies, her lovely piteous head amid dull red hair 
Propped upon pillows, rouge on the pallor of her face. 
She would not have us sad because she is lying there, 
And when she meets our gaze her eyes are laughter-lit,         5
Her speech a wicked tale that we may vie with her 
Matching our broken-hearted wit against her wit, 
Thinking of saints and of Petronius Arbiter. 
  
II
Certain Artists bring her Dolls and Drawings




Bring where our Beauty lies
 
A new modelled doll, or drawing,  10
With a friend’s or an enemy’s 
Features, or maybe showing 
Her features when a tress 
Of dull red hair was flowing 
Over some silken dress  15
Cut in the Turkish fashion, 
Or it may be like a boy’s. 
We have given the world our passion 
We have naught for death but toys. 
  
III
She turns the Dolls’ Faces to the Wall

  20
  
Because to-day is some religious festival 
They had a priest say Mass, and even the Japanese, 
Heel up and weight on toe, must face the wall 
—Pedant in passion, learned in old courtesies, 
Vehement and witty she had seemed—; the Venetian lady  25
Who had seemed to glide to some intrigue in her red shoes, 
Her domino, her panniered skirt copied from Longhi; 
The meditative critic; all are on their toes, 
Even our Beauty with her Turkish trousers on. 
Because the priest must have like every dog his day  30
Or keep us all awake with baying at the moon, 
We and our dolls being but the world were best away. 
  
IV
The End of Day


She is playing like a child
 
And penance is the play, 
Fantastical and wild  35
Because the end of day 
Shows her that some one soon 
Will come from the house, and say— 
Though play is but half-done— 
‘Come in and leave the play.’—  40
  
V
Her Race


She has not grown uncivil
 
As narrow natures would 
And called the pleasures evil 
Happier days thought good; 
She knows herself a woman  45
No red and white of a face, 
Or rank, raised from a common 
Unreckonable race; 
And how should her heart fail her 
Or sickness break her will  50
With her dead brother’s valour 
For an example still. 
  
VI
Her Courage


When her soul flies to the predestined dancing-place
 
(I have no speech but symbol, the pagan speech I made 
Amid the dreams of youth) let her come face to face,  55
While wondering still to be a shade, with Grania’s shade 
All but the perils of the woodland flight forgot 
That made her Dermuid dear, and some old cardinal 
Pacing with half-closed eyelids in a sunny spot 
Who had murmured of Giorgione at his latest breath—  60
Aye and Achilles, Timor, Babar, Barhaim, all 
Who have lived in joy and laughed into the face of Death. 
  
VII
Her Friends bring her a Christmas Tree


Pardon, great enemy,
 
Without an angry thought 
We’ve carried in our tree,  65
And here and there have bought 
Till all the boughs are gay, 
And she may look from the bed 
On pretty things that may 
Please a fantastic head.  70
Give her a little grace, 
What if a laughing eye 
Have looked into your face— 
It is about to die. 


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