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Regina, Regina Pigmeorum, Veni


One night a middle-aged man, who had lived all his life far from the
noise of cab-wheels, a young girl, a relation of his, who was reported
to be enough of a seer to catch a glimpse of unaccountable lights
moving over the fields among the cattle, and myself, were walking along
a far western sandy shore. We talked of the Forgetful People as the
faery people are sometimes called, and came in the midst of our talk to
a notable haunt of theirs, a shallow cave amidst black rocks, with its
reflection under it in the wet sea sand. I asked the young girl if she
could see anything, for I had quite a number of things to ask the
Forgetful People. She stood still for a few minutes, and I saw that she
was passing into a kind of waking trance, in which the cold sea breeze
no longer troubled her, nor the dull boom of the sea distracted her
attention. I then called aloud the names of the great faeries, and in a
moment or two she said that she could hear music far inside the rocks,
and then a sound of confused talking, and of people stamping their feet
as if to applaud some unseen performer. Up to this my other friend had
been walking to and fro some yards off, but now he passed close to us,
and as he did so said suddenly that we were going to be interrupted,
for he heard the laughter of children somewhere beyond the rocks. We
were, however, quite alone. The spirits of the place had begun to cast
their influence over him also. In a moment he was corroborated by the
girl, who said that bursts of laughter had begun to mingle with the
music, the confused talking, and the noise of feet. She next saw a
bright light streaming out of the cave, which seemed to have grown much
deeper, and a quantity of little people,[FN#6] in various coloured
dresses, red predominating, dancing to a tune which she did not
recognize.


[FN#6] The people and faeries in Ireland are sometimes as big as we
are, sometimes bigger, and sometimes, as I have been told, about three
feet high. The Old Mayo woman I so often quote, thinks that it is
something in our eyes that makes them seem big or little.


I then bade her call out to the queen of the little people to come and
talk with us. There was, however, no answer to her command. I therefore
repeated the words aloud myself, and in a moment a very beautiful tall
woman came out of the cave. I too had by this time fallen into a kind
of trance, in which what we call the unreal had begun to take upon
itself a masterful reality, and was able to see the faint gleam of
golden ornaments, the shadowy blossom of dim hair. I then bade the girl
tell this tall queen to marshal her followers according to their
natural divisions, that we might see them. I found as before that I had
to repeat the command myself. The creatures then came out of the cave,
and drew themselves up, if I remember rightly, in four bands. One of
these bands carried quicken boughs in their hands, and another had
necklaces made apparently of serpents' scales, but their dress I cannot
remember, for I was quite absorbed in that gleaming woman. I asked her
to tell the seer whether these caves were the greatest faery haunts in
the neighbourhood. Her lips moved, but the answer was inaudible. I bade
the seer lay her hand upon the breast of the queen, and after that she
heard every word quite distinctly. No, this was not the greatest faery
haunt, for there was a greater one a little further ahead. I then asked
her whether it was true that she and her people carried away mortals,
and if so, whether they put another soul in the place of the one they
had taken? "We change the bodies," was her answer. "Are any of you ever
born into mortal life?" "Yes." "Do I know any who were among your
people before birth?" "You do." "Who are they?" "It would not be lawful
for you to know." I then asked whether she and her people were not
"dramatizations of our moods"? "She does not understand," said my
friend, "but says that her people are much like human beings, and do
most of the things human beings do." I asked her other questions, as to
her nature, and her purpose in the universe, but only seemed to puzzle
her. At last she appeared to lose patience, for she wrote this message
for me upon the sands--the sands of vision, not the grating sands under
our feet--"Be careful, and do not seek to know too much about us."
Seeing that I had offended her, I thanked her for what she had shown
and told, and let her depart again into her cave. In a little while the
young girl awoke out of her trance, and felt again the cold wind of the
world, and began to shiver.

I tell these things as accurately as I can, and with no theories to
blur the history. Theories are poor things at the best, and the bulk of
mine have perished long ago. I love better than any theory the sound of
the Gate of Ivory, turning upon its hinges, and hold that he alone who
has passed the rose-strewn threshold can catch the far glimmer of the
Gate of Horn. It were perhaps well for us all if we would but raise the
cry Lilly the astrologer raised in Windsor Forest, "Regina, Regina
Pigmeorum, Veni," and remember with him, that God visiteth His children
in dreams. Tall, glimmering queen, come near, and let me see again the
shadowy blossom of thy dim hair.

William Butler Yeats