W. B. Yeats
from Meditations in Time of Civil War
III. My Table
Two heavy trestles, and a board
Where Sato’s gift, a changeless sword,
By pen and paper lies,
That it may moralise
My days out of their aimlessness.
A bit of an embroidered dress
Covers its wooden sheath.
Chaucer had not drawn breath
When it was forged. In Sato’s house,
Curved like new moon, moon luminous,
It lay five-hundred years.
Yet if no change appears
No moon; only an aching heart
Conceives of a changeless work of art.
Our learned men have urged
That when and where ’twas forged
A marvellous accomplishment,
In painting or in pottery, went
From father unto son
And through the centuries ran
And seemed unchanging like the sword.
Soul’s beauty being most adored,
Men and their business took
The soul’s unchanging look;
For the most rich inheritor,
Knowing that none could pass Heaven’s door
That loved inferior art,
Had such an aching heart
That he, although a country’s talk
For silken clothes and stately walk,
Had waking wits; it seems
Juno’s peacock screamed.
‘Meditations in Time of Civil
War’ (BL21) appeared first
in London Mercury 7 (1923), pp. 232-38. For Yeats’s fullest
account of how he came to be in possession of Sato’s changeless
sword see the Bibliography BL48k.
For an overview of Yeats’s
Japanese interests see W. B. Yeats,
Certain Noble Plays, and Japan in the Bibliography, and for notes
about Yeats titles in print see from
The Dreaming of the Bones.