Featured Poem: To A Child Dancing In The Wind by W.B. Yeats

Before summer leads completely into autumn – the balance between the two seasons already precariously tipping – and the curtain comes down with a harsh finality on the holidays (or the easy holiday mentality at least) here is a poem which follows rather neatly on from the previous two that have been discussed; and given its compatibility, as well as presenting an almost perfect parallel with Hart Crane’s seaside scenario (it takes place on a beach and everything), it seems more than suitable to conclude a slightly summery, child-centred trilogy of poems. Plus – and this may be influenced by my own personal preferences as he is one of my favourites – it’s always nice to have a bit of Yeats to start a day, finish a larger period of time or indeed, for anything in-between. For as much as he dealt with some considerably weighty and complex issues, Yeats was also adept at capturing the passing, seemingly insignificant fragments of life and examining them in such a finely observed and really quite exquisite way that they become so much bigger, enveloping the reader line by line.

This observatory ode is no exception, its apparently unremarkable scene amplified from all sides by a range of entities that stir the senses. Not only do the movements and sensations that abound in the first half bring the poem so keenly to life but they also bring us in to the poem, and into the mind-set of the carefree child who is concerned only with dancing, the immediacy and corporeality of the moment at hand; absorbed completely, the embodiment of living in the present. A separation, distinction – a drawing of a line in the sand if you will (to tie in with the setting) – is presented between the definitiveness that starts the poem and the abstraction that comes later; what is felt physically and what is experienced emotionally; what is now, which is all the child knows, and what one day will be – the things that the child is not yet aware of or troubled by but which the onlooker know will eventually disrupt the dance. The roaring, crying wind presents something of an anomaly as it sets itself in both territories, but the child is so consumed by blitheness and cheerful ignorance that its potential harm does not register – as Yeats says, it has no need to be fearful of its potential peril or look negatively on it for the distress it could cause, instead only seeing its positive features, in particular its usefulness in enhancing the dance’s flow.

The position of the child is made obvious but that of the speaker is less so. We may imagine them gazing with an admiring eye at the naive and oblivious youth, untouched by the care of others or the harsh hand of society and experience. On the other hand, the lines – in particular, the closing exclamation – could be read in a far harsher tone themselves, a cynical aside from those who have been touched by hardship. But being an idealistic creature (as well as being ever inclined to see the best in Yeats), I prefer the former – it’s hard not to be charmed by the vision of a child whirling around in the wind, possessing not even a fraction of the self-consciousness that accompanies the activity the older you get (getting sand in your shoes is surely only going to hinder any smooth moves). Perhaps just temporarily, and for the sake of the season’s closing, we all should throw caution to the wind and have one last dance (our Reader Runners are excused from doing so until their feet are less sore, but then surely, some victory dances are in order).

To A Child Dancing In The Wind

Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind!

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

3 thoughts on “Featured Poem: To A Child Dancing In The Wind by W.B. Yeats”

  1. I wanna know meaning about this. who can help me?

    To A Child Dancing In The Wind

    Dance there upon the shore;
    What need have you to care
    For wind or water’s roar?
    And tumble out your hair
    That the salt drops have wet;
    Being young you have not known
    The fool’s triumph, nor yet
    Love lost as soon as won,
    Nor the best labourer dead
    And all the sheaves to bind.
    What need have you to dread
    The monstrous crying of wind!

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