In defiant old age, the Irish master W B Yeats (1865-1939) reaches out for heroic exemplars such as Shakespeare and William Blake and for a “mind Michael Angelo knew/ That can pierce the clouds.”

Another memorable image (though negative) in this thought-provoking poem is, “the mill of the mind/ Consuming its rag and bone.” He uses an archaic spelling for Michelangelo.

 

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AN ACRE OF GRASS

Picture and book remain,

An acre of green grass

For air and exercise,

Now strength of body goes;

Midnight, an old house

Where nothing stirs but a mouse.

~

My temptation is quiet.

Here at life’s end

Neither loose imagination,

Nor the mill of the mind

Consuming its rag and bone,

Can make the truth known.

~

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,

Myself must I remake

Till I am Timon and Lear

Or that William Blake

Who beat upon the wall

Till Truth obeyed his call;

~

A mind Michael Angelo knew

That can pierce the clouds,

Or inspired by frenzy

Shake the dead in their shrouds;

Forgotten else by mankind,

An old man’s eagle mind.