Image: Silver & Golden Apples

Silver & Golden Apples

Through his poems, prose, plays, and the friendships he fostered, W.B.Yeats encouraged the recovery of aspects of Irish cultural that were fading away, including a considerable amount of mystical lore.

In 1890 he was admitted to a magical fraternity called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and in 1899 he composed this poem:


I WENT out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

Nan Budinger, has written an illuminating paper, “Transformed by Love: An Alchemical and Psychological Reading of Yeats’ The Song of Wandering Aengus” (published here for the first time), in which she makes a very convincing case for the idea that…

Yeats’ crafted the poem itself to reflect the transformational arc of the alchemical process, and readers who undertake to unravel the poem’s skein of interwoven hermetic images and contemplate their complex of meanings in the context of the alchemical tradition, are, like the narrator of the poem, likely to be transformed by the process.

I was totally charmed by her interpretation, and in response composed the graphic image offered above.

2 thoughts on “Image: Silver & Golden Apples

  1. Very nice posting. I am familiar with Nan’s work, and find her reading of this gorgeous and mystical poem quite insightful. Love the image too. Can you speak more about your creative process when you designed this?

    • Lori, I think the tricksters Desire, Memory and Time are probably having a good chuckle as I flay about trying to respond sensibly to your “creative process” question. Especially comical is me looking back and attempting to describe in strings of words the roiling interplay of intention, experience and no end of unconscious stuff. What I’m coming up with looks like a number of squabbling processes elbowing their way forward simultaneously. One is Mr. Technical Considerations who ever lobbies for images that render clearly in high-contrast black and white. Another is the unpredictable, hermaphroditic Self who experiences something on the outside, senses it has something to do with something mysterious deep down inside, and wants to stay up all night pulling the two closer together. Then there’s Ms. Muse, whispering interpretations, asking thorny questions, offering imaginings of how things might be. And, of course, there’s my response to observations made by my beloved life partner who has a gift for clearly and kindly describing what she sees. I’m sure there’s lots of other players on the field as well, and they’ll no doubt exact some sort of penalty or other from me for not giving them a shout-out. What can you do? Expressing in words what goes on inside so often involves such compromise that I take tremendous delight in the crystal-true tone of the Yeats poem and Nan’s paper.

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