William Butler Yeats

The Three Hermits

Three old hermits took the air By a cold and desolate sea, First was muttering a prayer, Second rummaged for a flea; On a windy stone, the third, Giddy with his hundredth year, Sang unnoticed like a bird: 'Though the Door of Death is near And what waits behind the door, Three times in a single day I, though upright on the shore, Fall asleep when I should pray.' So the first, but now the second: 'We're but given what we have eamed When all thoughts and deeds are reckoned, So it's plain to be discerned That the shades of holy men Who have failed, being weak of will, Pass the Door of Birth again, And are plagued by crowds, until They've the passion to escape.' Moaned the other, 'They are thrown Into some most fearful shape.' But the second mocked his moan: 'They are not changed to anything, Having loved God once, but maybe To a poet or a king Or a witty lovely lady.' While he'd rummaged rags and hair, Caught and cracked his flea, the third, Giddy with his hundredth year, Sang unnoticed like a bird.