The Words upon the Window-Pane

  • W. B. Yeats


Swift haunts me; he is always just round the next corner. Sometimes it is a thought of my great-great-grandmother, a friend of that Archbishop King who sent him to England about the first-fruits, sometimes it is St. Patrick’s, where I have gone to wander and meditate, that brings him to mind, sometimes I remember something hard or harsh in O’Leary or in Taylor, or in the public speech of our statesmen, that reminds me by its style of his verse or prose. Did he not speak, perhaps, with just such an intonation? This instinct for what is near and yet hidden is in reality a return to the sources of our power, and therefore a claim made upon the future. Thought seems more true, emotion more deep, spoken by someone who touches my pride, who seems to claim me of his kindred, who seems to make me a part of some national mythology, nor is mythology mere ostentation, mere vanity if it draws me onward to the unknown; another turn of the gyre and myth is wisdom, pride, discipline. I remember the shudder in my spine when Mrs. Patrick Campbell said, speaking words Hofmannsthal put into the mouth of Electra, T too am of that ancient race’: Swift has sailed into his rest:
  • Savage indignation there

  • Cannot lacerate his breast.

  • Imitate him if you dare,

  • World-besotted traveller; he

  • Served human liberty.


Irish People Privy Council Religious Doubt Famous Passage Ancient Race 
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  1. J. G. S. MacNeill, Constitutional and Parliamentary History of Ireland (Dublin, 1917), p. 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 1967

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. B. Yeats

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