“A beloved woman,” wrote Luigi Giussani, “is but the beginning of a journey leading to a greater horizon lying beyond her. She is the sign of a greater ideal, an ideal of goodness, beauty, and companionship.”
Giussani wrote this in The Risk of Education with reference to Giacomo Leopardi’s poem “To His Lady.” It occurred to me yesterday that I knew—and have always loved—an English-language equivalent.
I spent a semester in high school studying William Butler Yeats (pictured). His cosmology was indecipherable for me (“turning in a widening gyre”?), but I understood his desire. I had a “fire in my head” in those days, and I sought “a glimmering girl.” I didn’t know why or what she meant, but I loved this poem and still do. It and she are signs of something mysterious and beautiful, something on or beyond “a greater horizon.”
“The Song of Wandering Aengus”
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lads and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
If you wonder why this post is titled the way it is, check out part 1 here.