How many ‘times’?

The Song of Wandering Aengus

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

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 a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone 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 lands 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.

Source: The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

Portrait of young Yeats

There is never an unsuitable moment to indulge in a Yeats poem. This is one of my favourites; it’s nicely impenetrable while looking simple on the surface. What does everything mean? – The hazel wood; the hazel wand; the fish; the glimmering girl. Or which of many possible or unlikely symbolic or mythological meanings might we unpack?

I’m most intrigued by the ‘time and times’ idea. When will ‘time’ be ‘done’? When will ‘times’ be ‘done’? Natural ‘time’, I suppose, in the sense of the cyclical experiences of created things, will end when the universe runs down. And perhaps long before that, the ‘times’ and their systems of measurement, our own creation, will vanish, outgrowing their functions in some different relationship between humanity and natural cycles.

But what are the apples?

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