The Stolen Child

The Stolen Child is one of WB Yeats’ earliest poems. It may have been written when he was in his late teens and was first published in the Irish Monthly in 1886 when Yeats was just 21.

The Stolen Child. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Notes and analysis
Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
W B Yeats

Yeats was always interested by Irish folklore, which provided the themes for much of his early work.

There were many stories in Ireland of fairies snatching away small children who were never to be seen again. Yeats would have heard such stories during his childhood in Co Sligo.

The Stolen Child by W B Yeats. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

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The Stolen Child by W B Yeats. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Stolen Child
The Stolen Child notes and analysis
W B Yeats

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Ireland's 100 favourite poems

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