The Song of Wandering Aengus

The Song of Wandering Aengus


I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

Source: The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)


"Fundamentally this poem is about the hero's quest that is a motif in so much mythology and literature. What the hero seeks is elusive and there is no logical reason to believe he will find it, but he continues to have faith, and this faith gives his life meaning." - Alex Crawley

"...The first stanza is the severance. The second stanza is the moonlight underworld time. And the third is the return. The the poem ends, in the third stanza, with what I believe is Yeat's mythopoetic identity; he wrote this poem in his late twenties, he lived into his mid seventies. Reciting just the last stanza - it is going to refer to his having met his anima, his soul, his inner beloved in the second stanza - this is the "her" in the third stanza. (Recites third stanza). ...So my take is who Yeats really was, is he was an "apple plucker" in essence; his mythopoetic identity had everything to do with the symbolic significance of the sun and the moon, and he spent his life plucking those apples, and you'll see that in many of his poems that he wrote later, and you'll see it in his final work, which is a book of prose, called "A Vision" - it's a book about the sun and the moon and what that has come to mean to him in his long life, which has to do with the masculine and the feminine among other things, and the relationship between, and how how that's played out in the phases of the moon. We could say Yeats was someone who spent his life plucking those apples, and that was his mythopoetic identity. His cultural delivery system - very different, a whole different level - was poetry, essays, novels, and a book of metaphysics in his seventies." - Bill Plotkin, Earth Talk, Schumacher College

"The Aengus of the title was a god of Irish mythology, one who stayed forever young and lived in a most marvellous palace where no one ever died, and where food and drink was always plentiful. This palace was called Brug na Boinne, and was situated on the banks of the River Boyne. He was also known as Aengus Og (“Aengus the Young”), among several variants.

One of the most famous tales about Aengus, and one that is partly reproduced by Yeats in the poem, involves his love for a young girl called Caer. He became sick with love for her having only seen her in a dream, and after years of searching, finally found her. Caer spent each year alternately as a swan or as a human girl. When Aengus found her, she was a swan, and he plunged into the water beside her and he too turned into a swan. Together they sang the most beautiful songs that put all who heard to sleep. After a year, Caer and Aonghus turned from swans back to their original form." - Alex Crawley