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Crazy Jane Grown Old Looks at the Dancers

Dreamed spring 1929? by William Butler Yeats; published 1931 as poem VII of Words for Music Perhaps

I found that ivory image there
Dancing, with her chosen youth,
But when he wound her coal-black hair
As though to strangle her, no scream
Or bodily movement did I dare,
Eyes under eyelids did so gleam;
Love is like the lion's tooth.

When she, and though some said she played
I said that she had danced heart's truth,
Drew a knife to strike him dead,
I could but leave him to his fate;
For no matter what is said
They had all that had their hate;
Love is like the lion's tooth.

Did he die or did she die?
Seemed to die or died they both?
God be with the times when I
Cared not a thraneen for what chanced
So that I had the limbs to try
Such a dance as there was danced--
Love is like the lion's tooth.


In W.B. Yeats: Selected Poetry, A. Norman Jeffares states in his endnotes that the Crazy Jane series

... was 'more or less founded' on Cracked Mary, an old woman living in Gort, County Galway, a local satirist. 'Crazy Jane grown old looks at the dancers' was suggested by a dream.
The Introduction (p. xxx) states that Yeats wrote much of the Crazy Jane series during a burst of energy in the spring of 1929. My dating the dream to this period, however, is just an assumption that may need correction as I read more Yeats material.

--Chris Wayan

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