Week 160: The Hero, by Roger Woddis

Roger Woddis (1917-1993) published this adaptation of the ‘Song of Wandering Aengus’ at the height of the IRA bombing campaign, when there was fear on the streets. Sad, maybe, to see Yeats’s beautiful poem subverted to a political end, but such was the logic of the times.

The Hero

I went out to the city streets,
Because a fire was in my head,
And saw the people passing by,
And wished the youngest of them dead,
And twisted by a bitter past,
And poisoned by a cold despair,
I found at last a resting-place
And left my hatred ticking there.

When I was fleeing from the night
And sweating in my room again,
I heard the old futilities
Exploding like a cry of pain;
But horror, should it touch the heart,
Would freeze my hand upon the fuse,
And I must shed no tears for those
Who merely have a life to lose.

Though I am sick with murdering,
Though killing is my native land,
I will find out where death has gone,
And kiss his lips and take his hand;
And hide among the withered grass,
And pluck, till love and life are done,
The shrivelled apples of the moon,
The cankered apples of the sun.

Roger Woddis