“The Host of the Air” is a poem by renowned Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. I first heard this poem back in the mid sixties on an Irish folksong record called, “The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at Carnegie Hall,” from 1963. I believe it was read by Liam Clancy, who passed away a few years ago. Many years ago, I used to try to recite the poem with him as I listened to the cassette in my car. I just loved the way it sounded. I tried to memorize all the songs on the album, but some were difficult because they were in Gaelic.
Very soon, I am going to attempt to record myself reciting this poem. I’ll make it into a YouTube video and add some still shots to it with some transitions. I fear what it will sound like though, because we always sound better in our own minds than we do on recordings. I’ll just keep trying until I get an acceptable copy, though, so be looking for it!
Here is a preview:
THE HOST OF THE AIR
by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)O’DRISCOLL drove with a song The wild duck and the drake From the tall and the tufted reeds Of the drear Hart Lake. And he saw how the reeds grew dark At the coming of night-tide, And dreamed of the long dim hair Of Bridget his bride. He heard while he sang and dreamed A piper piping away, And never was piping so sad, And never was piping so gay. And he saw young men and young girls Who danced on a level place, And Bridget his bride among them, With a sad and a gay face. The dancers crowded about him And many a sweet thing said, And a young man brought him red wine And a young girl white bread. But Bridget drew him by the sleeve Away from the merry bands, To old men playing at cards With a twinkling of ancient hands. The bread and the wine had a doom, For these were the host of the air; He sat and played in a dream Of her long dim hair. He played with the merry old men And thought not of evil chance, Until one bore Bridget his bride Away from the merry dance. He bore her away in his arms, The handsomest young man there, And his neck and his breast and his arms Were drowned in her long dim hair. O’Driscoll scattered the cards And out of his dream awoke: Old men and young men and young girls Were gone like a drifting smoke; But he heard high up in the air A piper piping away, And never was piping so sad, And never was piping so gay.