THE SEVEN SAGES
The First: My great-grandfather spoke to Edmund Burke
In Grattan's house.
The Second: My great-grandfather shared
A pot-house bench with Oliver Goldsmith once.
The Third: My great-grandfather's father talked of music,
Drank tar-water with the Bishop of Cloyne.
The Fourth: But mine saw Stella once.
The Fifth: Whence came our thought?
The Sixth: From four great minds that hated Whiggery.
The Fifth: Burke was a Whig.
The Sixth: Whether they knew or not
Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne
All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkard's eye.
The Seventh: All's Whiggery now,
But we old men are massed against the world.
The First: American colonies, Ireland, France and India
Harried, and Burke's great melody against it
The Second: Oliver Goldsmith sang what he had seen,
Roads full of beggars, cattle in the fields,
But never saw the trefoil stained with blood,
The avenging leaf of those fields raised up against it.
The Fourth: The tomb of Swift wears it away.
Soft as the rustle of a reed from Cloyne
That gathers volume; now a thunder-clap.
The Sixth: What schooling had these four?
They walked the roads
Mimicking what they heard, as children mimic;
They understood that wisdom comes of beggary.
(William Butler Yeats, 1933, The Windings Stair and Other Poems)