Yeat's Revisions of "The Scholars"The second stanza gave Yeats much trouble. In Poetry, February 1916, this read:
They'll cough in the ink to the world's end;
Wear out the carpet with their shoes;
Earning respect, have no strange friend,
If they have sinned nobody knows:
Lord, what would they say
Should their Catullus walk that way?
He was not satisfied with the revision of the poem which made the first four lines of the last stanza begin with "all", feeling perhaps that their rhetoric was too easy. In his 1928 diary he wrote down another version in which he changed from the third person to direct address:
Shuffle there, cough in the ink,
Wear out the carpet with your shoes,
Think what all good people think,
Youth could sin, but old age knows.
Lord, what would you say
Did your Catullus walk that way?
But he did not alter the published version, which had a better ring to it.
Yeats did not always take so frowning a view of scholarship. A poem written three and a half years later declared, "Truth flourishes where the student's lamp has shown".
Contributed by Gifford, Katya
9 March 2002