Mercury Day Poetry: “The Rose Upon the Rood of Time”

“We are the last Romantics.” W.B. Yeats

Today’s poem is one of my favorites, one of those poems that made me fall in love with poetry when I was young. It’s an early poem by William Butler Yeats (1869-1939), “The Rose Upon the Rood of Time.” At the same time yoga philosophy was budding in the West, Yeats, who was Irish, and his contemporaries in Europe were discovering what might be generally termed “mysticism.” Poets writing in that group began to formulate their own symbolic systems, and Yeats went wild with his own metaphors. “Rood” is a very old word for the cross, and in his symbolism, the rose on the cross is a symbol of the unity of Female and Male, analogous to yoni and lingam. Yeats believed in the redemptive power of beautiful, complex things. This poem is a great example of both, woven with Irish myth and legend.

The Rose Upon the Rood of Time

Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!   
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.

Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.
Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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