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An essay by William Butler Yeats

A Tower On The Apennine

Title:     A Tower On The Apennine
Author: William Butler Yeats [More Titles by Yeats]

The other day I was walking towards Urbino where I was to spend the night, having crossed the Apennines from San Sepolcro, and had come to a level place on the mountain top near the journey's end. My friends were in a carriage somewhere behind, on a road which was still ascending in great loops, and I was alone amid a visionary fantastic impossible scenery. It was sunset and the stormy clouds hung upon mountain after mountain, and far off on one great summit a cloud darker than the rest glimmered with lightning. Away to the south a mediaeval tower, with no building near nor any sign of life, rose upon its solitary summit into the clouds. I saw suddenly in the mind's eye an old man, erect and a little gaunt, standing in the door of the tower, while about him broke a windy light. He was the poet who had at last, because he had done so much for the word's sake, come to share in the dignity of the saint. He had hidden nothing of himself but he had taken care of 'that dignity ... the perfection of form ... this lofty and severe quality ... this virtue.' And though he had but sought it for the word's sake, or for a woman's praise, it had come at last into his body and his mind. Certainly as he stood there he knew how from behind that laborious mood, that pose, that genius, no flower of himself but all himself, looked out as from behind a mask that other Who alone of all men, the country people say, is not a hair's breadth more nor less than six feet high. He has in his ears well instructed voices and seeming solid sights are before his eyes, and not as we say of many a one, speaking in metaphor, but as this were Delphi or Eleusis, and the substance and the voice come to him among his memories which are of women's faces; for was it Columbanus or another that wrote 'There is one among the birds that is perfect, and one perfect among the fish.'

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William Butler Yeats's essay: Tower On The Apennine