William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)

96 No Second Troy

William Butler Yeats

Why should I blame her[1] that she filled my days
With misery[2], or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?


  1. Maud Gonne, the beautiful Irish revolutionary leader, whom Yeats loved for much of his life. She was to him the reincarnation of Helen of Troy, in the ancient world a major trading port in what is now Turkey. Helen was so beautiful, she was abducted by the Trojan Paris, and her husband, Menelaus, King of the Greek city of Sparta, attacked Troy to get her back.
  2. Yeats proposed to Maud, but she admitted to him she had two children with a married French journalist. Later, she married John MacBride, a major in the Irish Republican Army, a man Yeats despised.  (cf. “Easter, 1916”).


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