60th YISS Poetry Project

Adam's Curse

By William Butler Yeats

Chosen by Yeats Society Sligo Director, Susan O'Keeffe

Adam's Curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’

And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Week 1: Alice Lyons, Poet-in-Residence, poetry
Poem - 'The Circus Animals' Desertion' by WB Yeats

Week 2: Stella Mew, Yeats scholar and former CEO of Yeats Society Sligo
Poem - 'Sailing to Byzantium' by WB Yeats

Week 3: Kevin Connolly; Author 'Yeats and Sligo'
Poem - 'On a Political Prisoner' by WB Yeats

Week 4: Martin Enright, Honorary President of Yeats Society Sligo
Poem - 'The Wild Swans at Coole' by WB Yeats

Week 5: Auriel Robinson, Director of Sligo-based heritage trails company Seatrails
Poem - 'September 1913' by WB Yeats

Week 6: Warwick Gould, Emeritus Professor, University of London
Poem - 'Mohini Chatterjee' by WB Yeats

Week 7: Marian Richardson, RTÉ Radio Broadcaster, Series Producer and Presenter of Playback
Poem - 'In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markievicz' by WB Yeats

Week 8: Rosaleen O'Grady, Mayor Municipal District Sligo
Poem - 'Broken Dreams' by WB Yeats

Week 9: Professor Frank McGuinness, UCD poet and playwright
Poem - 'Prayer for My Son' by WB Yeats

Week 10: Yeats Society Sligo Director, Susan O'Keeffe
Poem - 'Adam's Curse' by WB Yeats