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Lay for the Day
28th January

1939: W.B. Yeats dies in Menton in France. After the Second World War, his bones were brought home to be laid in the churchyard of Drumcliff, County Sligo, according to the request in ‘Under Ben Bulben’, one of his last poems. Subsequently, doubt has been cast on the authenticity of the remains that were translated.


Far from a hero and far from a saint,
either in an action frozen
or burning in the lamplit paint,
you were discomfortably chosen
to stand dumbfounded in the fellside light,
to witness all
the human night,
and have what, in youth, came
as words, come in your dry September years
as shame-
cold tears
you don’t let fall,
too bent on rhyme –

an exile from eternity, in love with time.

Monkey reaches
for the moon in a stream,
in a Chinese story:
can’t let go his grip or catch her glory
or shun her gliding beam,
hung between act and dream.
Fall through the bright
circle of desire and sink down
into unillumination and drown,
one sage teaches.


John Gibbens
from Makings ’89-’91

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar