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Earth, Fire and Water

Some French writer that I read when I was a boy, said that the desert
went into the heart of the Jews in their wanderings and made them what
they are. I cannot remember by what argument he proved them to be even
yet the indestructible children of earth, but it may well be that the
elements have their children. If we knew the Fire Worshippers better we
might find that their centuries of pious observance have been rewarded,
and that the fire has given them a little of its nature; and I am
certain that the water, the water of the seas and of lakes and of mist
and rain, has all but made the Irish after its image. Images form
themselves in our minds perpetually as if they were reflected in some
pool. We gave ourselves up in old times to mythology, and saw the Gods
everywhere. We talked to them face to face, and the stories of that
communion are so many that I think they outnumber all the like stories
of all the rest of Europe. Even to-day our country people speak with
the dead and with some who perhaps have never died as we understand
death; and even our educated people pass without great difficulty into
the condition of quiet that is the condition of vision. We can make our
minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may
see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a
clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet. Did not
the wise Porphyry think that all souls come to be born because of
water, and that "even the generation of images in the mind is from
water"?


1902.

William Butler Yeats