Where my books go

Some poems I enjoy because there is something inherently ‘clever’ about the way they are constructed, others because the feeling they evoke is so powerful and wonderful. “Where My Books Go” is one of the latter. I find this poem incredibly soothing, both in meaning and the way it reads.

All the words that I utter*,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken’d or starry bright.

*some versions say ‘gather’

One of the reasons this poem is so pleasant to listen to is that it flows very nicely. It contains a very simple abcb rhyme and an uninterrupted rhythm that allows the words to roll off your tongue. My favourite line is ’till they come where your sad, sad heart is’. The repetition of the word ‘sad’ conveys how much the speaker laments this sadness and feels for the addressee.

The meaning of the poem, too, is strengthened by this simplicity. Its message appears very straightforward, unobstructed by complicated metaphors or obscure literary references, as some of Yeats’ other work is said to be.

Who ‘you’ is, is left to the reader to decide, but it is clearly someone beloved by the speaker. You can read the poem as if you’re being addressed directly, or as if the poet tries to console someone else. Either way, it speaks of the comfort of words, of their ability to traverse large spaces between people and express the love of the poet no matter where its object is. The idea of the words ‘singing’ to you is also very sweet.

Though we should always be careful to read any work as autobiographical (the author is dead and so on) the poem seems to reveal Yeats’ motivation for writing to us. He doesn’t write to be published, or gain fame. All of his words are only meant to make this one beloved person feel better. A lovely image, isn’t it?

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