by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

      'DRISCOLL drove with a song
      The wild duck and the drake
      From the tall and the tufted reeds
      Of the drear Hart Lake.
      And he saw how the reeds grew dark
      At the coming of night-tide,
      And dreamed of the long dim hair
      Of Bridget his bride.
      He heard while he sang and dreamed
      A piper piping away,
      And never was piping so sad,
      And never was piping so gay.
      And he saw young men and young girls
      Who danced on a level place,
      And Bridget his bride among them,
      With a sad and a gay face.
      The dancers crowded about him
      And many a sweet thing said,
      And a young man brought him red wine
      And a young girl white bread.
      But Bridget drew him by the sleeve
      Away from the merry bands,
      To old men playing at cards
      With a twinkling of ancient hands.
      The bread and the wine had a doom,
      For these were the host of the air;
      He sat and played in a dream
      Of her long dim hair.
      He played with the merry old men
      And thought not of evil chance,
      Until one bore Bridget his bride
      Away from the merry dance.
      He bore her away in his arms,
      The handsomest young man there,
      And his neck and his breast and his arms
      Were drowned in her long dim hair.
      O'Driscoll scattered the cards
      And out of his dream awoke:
      Old men and young men and young girls
      Were gone like a drifting smoke;
      But he heard high up in the air
      A piper piping away,
      And never was piping so sad,
      And never was piping so gay.

"The Host of the Air" is reprinted from The Wind Among the Reeds. W.B. Yeats. London: Elkin Mathews, 1899.




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