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Miraculous Creatures

There are marten cats and badgers and foxes in the Enchanted Woods,
but there are of a certainty mightier creatures, and the lake hides
what neither net nor fine can take. These creatures are of the race of
the white stag that flits in and out of the tales of Arthur, and of the
evil pig that slew Diarmuid where Ben Bulben mixes with the sea wind.
They are the wizard creatures of hope and fear, they are of them that
fly and of them that follow among the thickets that are about the Gates
of Death. A man I know remembers that his father was one night in the
wood Of Inchy, "where the lads of Gort used to be stealing rods. He was
sitting by the wall, and the dog beside him, and he heard something
come running from Owbawn Weir, and he could see nothing, but the sound
of its feet on the ground was like the sound of the feet of a deer. And
when it passed him, the dog got between him and the wall and scratched
at it there as if it was afraid, but still he could see nothing but
only hear the sound of hoofs. So when it was passed he turned and came
away home. Another time," the man says, "my father told me he was in a
boat out on the lake with two or three men from Gort, and one of them
had an eel-spear, and he thrust it into the water, and it hit
something, and the man fainted and they had to carry him out of the
boat to land, and when he came to himself he said that what he struck
was like a calf, but whatever it was, it was not fish!" A friend of
mine is convinced that these terrible creatures, so common in lakes,
were set there in old times by subtle enchanters to watch over the
gates of wisdom. He thinks that if we sent our spirits down into the
water we would make them of one substance with strange moods Of ecstasy
and power, and go out it may be to the conquest of the world. We would,
however, he believes, have first to outface and perhaps overthrow
strange images full of a more powerful life than if they were really
alive. It may be that we shall look at them without fear when we have
endured the last adventure, that is death.


1902.

William Butler Yeats