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An Enduring Heart

One day a friend of mine was making a sketch of my Knight of the
Sheep. The old man's daughter was sitting by, and, when the
conversation drifted to love and lovemaking, she said, "Oh, father,
tell him about your love affair." The old man took his pipe out of his
mouth, and said, "Nobody ever marries the woman he loves," and then,
with a chuckle, "There were fifteen of them I liked better than the
woman I married," and he repeated many women's names. He went on to
tell how when he was a lad he had worked for his grandfather, his
mother's father, and was called (my friend has forgotten why) by his
grandfather's name, which we will say was Doran. He had a great friend,
whom I shall call John Byrne; and one day he and his friend went to
Queenstown to await an emigrant ship, that was to take John Byrne to
America. When they were walking along the quay, they saw a girl sitting
on a seat, crying miserably, and two men standing up in front of her
quarrelling with one another. Doran said, "I think I know what is
wrong. That man will be her brother, and that man will be her lover,
and the brother is sending her to America to get her away from the
lover. How she is crying! but I think I could console her myself."
Presently the lover and brother went away, and Doran began to walk up
and down before her, saying, "Mild weather, Miss," or the like. She
answered him in a little while, and the three began to talk together.
The emigrant ship did not arrive for some days; and the three drove
about on outside cars very innocently and happily, seeing everything
that was to be seen. When at last the ship came, and Doran had to break
it to her that he was not going to America, she cried more after him
than after the first lover. Doran whispered to Byrne as he went aboard
ship, "Now, Byrne, I don't grudge her to you, but don't marry young."

When the story got to this, the farmer's daughter joined In mockingly
with, "I suppose you said that for Byrne's good, father." But the old
man insisted that he had said it for Byrne's good; and went on to tell
how, when he got a letter telling of Byrne's engagement to the girl, he
wrote him the same advice. Years passed by, and he heard nothing; and
though he was now married, he could not keep from wondering what she
was doing. At last he went to America to find out, and though he asked
many people for tidings, he could get none. More years went by, and his
wife was dead, and he well on in years, and a rich farmer with not a
few great matters on his hands. He found an excuse in some vague
business to go out to America again, and to begin his search again. One
day he fell into talk with an Irishman in a railway carriage, and asked
him, as his way was, about emigrants from this place and that, and at
last, "Did you ever hear of the miller's daughter from Innis Rath?" and
he named the woman he was looking for. "Oh yes," said the other, "she
is married to a friend of mine, John MacEwing. She lives at such-and-
such a street in Chicago." Doran went to Chicago and knocked at her
door. She opened the door herself, and was "not a bit changed." He gave
her his real name, which he had taken again after his grandfather's
death, and the name of the man he had met in the train. She did not
recognize him, but asked him to stay to dinner, saying that her husband
would be glad to meet anybody who knew that old friend of his. They
talked of many things, but for all their talk, I do not know why, and
perhaps he did not know why, he never told her who he was. At dinner he
asked her about Byrne, and she put her head down on the table and began
to cry, and she cried so he was afraid her husband might be angry. He
was afraid to ask what had happened to Byrne, and left soon after,
never to see her again.

When the old man had finished the story, he said, "Tell that to Mr.
Yeats, he will make a poem about it, perhaps." But the daughter said,
"Oh no, father. Nobody could make a poem about a woman like that."
Alas! I have never made the poem, perhaps because my own heart, which
has loved Helen and all the lovely and fickle women of the world, would
be too sore. There are things it is well not to ponder over too much,
things that bare words are the best suited for.


1902.

William Butler Yeats