Yeats' The Celtic Twilight
THE GOLDEN AGE
A while ago I was in the train,
and getting near Sligo. The last time I had
been there something was troubling me, and I had longed for a message from those
beings or bodiless moods, or whatever they be, who inhabit the world of spirits.
The message came, for one night I saw with blinding distinctness a black animal,
half weasel, half dog, moving along the top of a stone wall, and presently the
black animal vanished, and from the other side came a white weasel-like dog, his
pink flesh shining through his white hair and all in a blaze of light; and I
remembered a pleasant belief about two faery dogs who go about representing day
and night, good and evil, and was comforted by the excellent omen. But now I
longed for a message of another kind, and chance, if chance there is, brought
it, for a man got into the carriage and began to play on a fiddle made
apparently of an old blacking-box, and though I am quite unmusical the sounds filled me with the
strangest emotions. I seemed to hear a voice of lamentation out of the Golden
Age. It told me that we are imperfect, incomplete, and no more like a beautiful
woven web, but like a bundle of cords knotted together and flung into a comer.
It said that the world was once all perfect and kindly, and that still the
kindly and perfect world existed, but buried like a mass of roses under many
spadefuls of earth. The faeries and the more innocent of the spirits dwelt
within it, and lamented over our fallen world in the lamentation of the
wind-tossed reeds, in the song of the birds, in the moan of the waves, and in
the sweet cry of the fiddle. It said that with us the beautiful are not clever
and the clever are not beautiful, and that the best of our moments are marred by
a little vulgarity, or by a pin-prick out of sad recollection, and that the
fiddle must ever lament about it all. It said that if only they who
live in the Golden Age could die we might be happy, for the sad
voices would be still; but alas! alas! they must sing and we must weep until the
Eternal gates swing open.
We were now getting into the big glass-roofed terminus, and the fiddler put
away his old blacking-box and held out his hat for a copper, and then opened the
door and was gone.