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The Seven Sages

William Butler Yeats

The First. My great-grandfather spoke to Edmund Burke
  In Grattan’s house.
The Second. My great-grandfather shared
  A pot-house bench with Oliver Goldsmith once.
The Third. My great-grandfather’s father talked of music,
  Drank tar-water with the Bishop of Cloyne.
The Fourth. But mine saw Stella once.
The Fifth. Whence came our thought?
The Sixth. From four great minds that hated Whiggery.
The Fifth. Burke was a Whig.
The Sixth. Whether they knew or not,
  Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne
  All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
  A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
  That never looked out of the eye of a saint
  Or out of drunkard’s eye.
The Seventh. All’s Whiggery now,
  But we old men are massed against the world.
The First. American colonies, Ireland, France and India
  Harried, and Burke’s great melody against it.
The Second. Oliver Goldsmith sang what he had seen,
  Roads full of beggars, cattle in the fields,
  But never saw the trefoil stained with blood,
  The avenging leaf those fields raised up against it.
The Fourth. The tomb of Swift wears it away.
The Third. A voice
  Soft as the rustle of a reed from Cloyne
  That gathers volume; now a thunder-clap.
The Sixtb. What schooling had these four?
The Seventh. They walked the roads
  Mimicking what they heard, as children mimic;
  They understood that wisdom comes of beggary.
Online text © 1998-2016 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From The Winding Stair and Other Poems | 1933
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