The Host of the Air

The Host of the Air by W. B. Yeats tells the story of a man falling asleep while working beside a lake. He dreams about a party and he and his wife are enjoying themselves.

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
W B Yeats

But then when he is distracted playing cards, a young man steals his wife away from him. This causes the man to wake up but strangely, he can still hear the music from his dream once he is awake.

The Host of the Air by W. B. Yeats. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Host of the Air

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.

The Host of the Air by W. B. Yeats. Image copyright Ireland Calling

W B Yeats

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Ireland's 100 favourite poems

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