The Valley Of The Black Pig

The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
The grey caim on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
Being weary of the world's empires, bow down to you.
Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

by William Butler Yeats

Comments (5)

A sequel to the previous sonnet, continuing the story of the lover's journey, and anticipating his eventual return to his beloved, when, as he foresees it, in his eagerness he will outrun even the fastest horse. On first impressions this sonnet seems to describe the return journey, but in fact it only speculates on what that journey might be, while in reality the speaker is still probably travelling away from the youth.
The poem is a remarkable tour-de-force of motion, with words of swiftness and slowness tumbling over each other. Almost every line contains some reference to the rapidity of desire or the dulling drag of reality.
Thus one finds slow; dull; speed; haste; posting; excuse; swift extremity; slow; spur; mounted on the wind; winged speed, no motion; keep pace; desire; dull flesh; fiery race; excuse; going, wilfull slow; run; give leave, go. These are not all words of motion, but in the context they take up the colours of their surroundings and, like the steed of desire, which is made of the most perfect love, gallop away on the wind.
There are considerable difficulties in attaching precise meanings to the thoughts expressed in lines 9-14, and that is perhaps precisely what we are intended not to do. The range of meanings is dense and elusive, suggesting both the speed of thought, desire, love and devotion, in terms of winged flight (Pegasus) , fiery steeds, the winds, the sightless couriers of the air, the horsemen of the apocalypse, as well as the occasional reminder of the dull flesh, poor beasts and the muddy vesture of decay. But it is desire (of perfectest love being made) which in the end triumphs, as the poet rushes forward to the beloved on the swift wings of thought, and material means of transport are turned loose and given leave to wander and to pasture as they please.
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