William Butler Yeats

The Three Beggars

'Though to my feathers in the wet, I have stood here from break of day. I have not found a thing to eat, For only rubbish comes my way. Am I to live on lebeen-lone?' Muttered the old crane of Gort. 'For all my pains on lebeen-lone?' King Guaire walked amid his court The palace-yard and river-side And there to three old beggars said, 'You that have wandered far and wide Can ravel out what's in my head. Do men who least desire get most, Or get the most who most desire?' A beggar said, 'They get the most Whom man or devil cannot tire, And what could make their muscles taut Unless desire had made them so?' But Guaire laughed with secret thought, 'If that be true as it seems true, One of you three is a rich man, For he shall have a thousand pounds Who is first asleep, if but he can Sleep before the third noon sounds.' And thereon, merry as a bird With his old thoughts, King Guaire went From river-side and palace-yard And left them to their argument. 'And if I win,' one beggar said, 'Though I am old I shall persuade A pretty girl to share my bed'; The second: 'I shall learn a trade'; The third: 'I'll hurry' to the course Among the other gentlemen, And lay it all upon a horse'; The second: 'I have thought again: A farmer has more dignity.' One to another sighed and cried: The exorbitant dreams of beggary. That idleness had borne to pride, Sang through their teeth from noon to noon; And when the sccond twilight brought The frenzy of the beggars' moon None closed his blood-shot eyes but sought To keep his fellows from their sleep; All shouted till their anger grew And they were whirling in a heap. They mauled and bit the whole night through; They mauled and bit till the day shone; They mauled and bit through all that day And till another night had gone, Or if they made a moment's stay They sat upon their heels to rail,, And when old Guaire came and stood Before the three to end this tale, They were commingling lice and blood 'Time's up,' he cried, and all the three With blood-shot eyes upon him stared. 'Time's up,' he eried, and all the three Fell down upon the dust and snored. `Maybe I shall be lucky yet, Now they are silent,' said the crane. `Though to my feathers in the wet I've stood as I were made of stone And seen the rubbish run about, It's certain there are trout somewhere And maybe I shall take a trout but I do not seem to care.'

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