The Stolen Child

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Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim mentioned in the poem

"The Stolen Child" is a poem by William Butler Yeats, published in 1889 in The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems.

Overview[edit]

The poem was written in 1886 and is considered to be one of Yeats's more notable early poems. The poem is based on Irish legend and concerns faeries beguiling a child to come away with them. Yeats had a great interest in Irish mythology about faeries resulting in his publication of Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry in 1888 and Fairy Folk Tales of Ireland in 1892.

The poem reflects the early influence of Romantic literature and Pre-Raphaelite verse.

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.


Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.


Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.


Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest
For he comes, the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand


Publication history[edit]

The poem was first published in the Irish Monthly in December 1886. The poem was then published in a compilation of work by several Irish poets Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland in 1888 with several critics praising the poem. It was later published in his first book of poetry The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems as well as Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry.

In modern culture[edit]

The poem was set to music and recorded by Loreena McKennitt on her 1985 debut album Elemental. Subsequently, additional musical versions were recorded by the folk rock group The Waterboys, appearing on their 1988 album Fisherman's Blues, with portions of the poem spoken by Tomas Mac Eoin; Heather Alexander on her 1994 album Wanderlust; and Hamilton Camp on his 2005 album Sweet Joy in the song Celts. Another version set to music and recorded on the Danny Ellis album 800 Voices, was released in 2006. In 2012, Merrymouth, a folk band led by Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene recorded the poem set to a melody written by Fowler and music by Merrymouth (Fowler, Sealey, McNamara) for their debut album Simon Fowlers Merrymouth. As far back as 1911, the English composer Cyril Rootham set the poem to music. The renowned American composer Eric Whitacre has also set this poem in a piece for The King's Singers and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. British composer and guitar virtuoso Steve Hackett recorded a version of Yeats' poem, under the title "Waters of the Wild" from his 2006 album "Wild Orchids"

Keith Donohue's novel, The Stolen Child (Nan A. Talese, 2006) was inspired by the poem. The refrain is prominently featured in Steven Spielberg's film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The poem is also featured in the television series Torchwood episode "Small Worlds", being spoken by a fairy who steals a young girl. The novel Dies the Fire also incorporates the poem into elements of Wiccan rituals.

An Irish Dance show 'The Prophecy' is based upon the poem. It is performed by Scottish based company, Siamsoir Irish Dancers and has won an award for the Best Dance and Theatre act at the world's largest Robert Burns festival - The Big Burns Supper in Dumfries.

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References[edit]

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