William Butler Yeats

Ancestral Houses

Meditations In Time Of Civil War

Surely among a rich man's flowering lawns, Amid the rustle of his planted hills, Life overflows without ambitious pains; And rains down life until the basin spills, And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains As though to choose whatever shape it wills And never stoop to a mechanical Or servile shape, at others' beck and call. Mere dreams, mere dreams! Yet Homer had not Sung Had he not found it certain beyond dreams That out of life's own self-delight had sprung The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams, And not a fountain, were the symbol which Shadows the inherited glory of the rich. Some violent bitter man, some powerful man Called architect and artist in, that they, Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone The sweetness that all longed for night and day, The gentleness none there had ever known; But when the master's buried mice can play. And maybe the great-grandson of that house, For all its bronze and marble, 's but a mouse. O what if gardens where the peacock strays With delicate feet upon old terraces, Or else all Juno from an urn displays Before the indifferent garden deities; O what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease And Childhood a delight for every sense, But take our greatness with our violence? What if the glory of escutcheoned doors, And buildings that a haughtier age designed, The pacing to and fro on polished floors Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined With famous portraits of our ancestors; What if those things the greatest of mankind Consider most to magnify, or to bless, But take our greatness with our bitterness?