The Fisherman

I am using W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Fisherman” as part of my song cycle The Fisherman Songs:

Although I can see him still,
The freckled man who goes
To a grey place on a hill
In grey Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies,
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped ’twould be
To write for my own race
And the reality;
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved,
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer,
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch-cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.

Maybe a twelvemonth since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man
And his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream:
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, ‘Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.’

It is a wonderful poem that uses the Irish fly fisherman as a symbol of integrity and as Yeats ideal audience. As with the other poems, I have found it useful if I have an image. Here is a beautiful salmon fly that goes back to the 19th century with the name Connemara Black.

I have found a few photos of rivers running through Connemara County with steep hills. This images has someone fly fishing a river in Connemara.

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About Mark

American composer of music.
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