Berenice’s Hair: Yeats Challenge, Days 23 and Day 24

This is for Jane’s Yeats Challenge, Day 23 and Day 24.

“…your hair was bound and wound

About the stars and moon and sun::—W.B. Yeats

 

“We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;” —W.B. Yeats 

 

He was away at war, another one

it seemed to happen again and again.

Was it glory, she wondered, or was it fun?

Would he return from battle, if so, when?

And what would happen when it was all done?

Though common worries, this time she’d had a dream

that he was wounded, or no, that he was killed

she woke with a scream, so true it seemed

for all their hopes dashed, left now unfulfilled.

She begged the goddess to spare his life,

and swore in return she’d cut her hair–

for her husband, as his wife,

she’d shear the strands that shone golden in the sunlit air

that flowed like waves of honeyed wheat

a glory recalled by all who saw it there

tumbling to her feet.

Then when her husband returned unharmed and well,

she kept her vow and left her hair at Aphrodite’s altar,

her husband pondered the story she had to tell

and that she never had faltered

and both were first bewildered, then enthralled

to find up in the sky

installed in a constellation

(though unsure why)

her hair swirled and flowed, unbound and wound

in glittering strands of riotous celebration

there far above the smiling moon, a shining crown

a tribute to her sacrifice, done without any hesitation–

though that was not the end of course

of war or force, nor of remorse

for pain and dying

yet still the stars keep flying,

and we, marvel at their beauty, keep sighing.

 

 

NGC_4565

By ESO [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. “The galaxy pictured here is NGC 4565, which for obvious reasons is also called the Needle Galaxy. First spotted in 1785 by Uranus’ discoverer, Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), this is one of the most famous example of an edge-on spiral galaxy and is located some 30 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair). It displays a bright yellowish central bulge that juts out above most impressive dust lanes.”

 

 

17 thoughts on “Berenice’s Hair: Yeats Challenge, Days 23 and Day 24

  1. Maybe it’s the Yeats, but despite the talk of the goddess and Aphrodite’s altar, which could lead one to think the poem’s story takes place in remote antiquity, it puts me in mind of the early twentieth century. Lots of wars going on and lots of people (like Yeats and many in his circle) turning towards ancient and celestial spiritual influences. It’s a beautiful poem, Merrill, very romantic.

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Yes, the concepts could take place at many times throughout history, but I hadn’t actually thought about it as far as Yeats and his circle. Thank you!

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