The Bitter Glass

The Two Trees
by William Butler Yeats

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the wingèd sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night receives,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves.
For all things turn to barrenness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness,
Made when God slept in times of old.
There, through the broken branches, go
The ravens of unresting thought;
Flying, crying, to and fro,
Cruel claw and hungry throat,
Or else they stand and sniff the wind,
And shake their ragged wings; alas!
Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:
Gaze no more in the bitter glass.

The nature of your experience in life hangs entirely upon the way you approach it. Live radiantly, that is, from the inside-out, where your expression flows outward instead of being predicated on reaction to that which is round about, and you will know deep, lasting and unshakeable joy in living. Live reactively, using your judgments of “good” and “evil” as your point of centering, and your joy will be constantly clawed at by outer weariness.

You cannot overcome those who seek to destroy you through guile if you have not yet come free of the state of judgment. It can be tempting to meet guile with guile, but when you come clear of the mixture, that is, the stupefied state of heart that is produced when you partake in judgment, guile is no longer seen as an option…not even a last resort.

“Unresting heart” is the by-product of a troubled heart and the heart is troubled by only one thing: judgment. Understand this one point and you will begin to understand yourself. Understand yourself and you will understand the world. You cannot live effectively in the darkness of ignorance.

“Gaze no more in the bitter glass.”

17 thoughts on “The Bitter Glass

  1. Kimberly

    What a vivid and apt description of our choices. I love your blog it makes me stop and think about my life and how much it’s meaning is up to me. Thank you.

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  2. Lady Leo

    What a masterful poem. Realizing that judgement imprisons our heart and soul tighter then what it tries to impose on the judged should be enough. Judgement is God’s alone. I know when I look in the bitter glass my life becomes hard and when I chose not to, the freedom I was promised is quickly available. Thanks Gregg wonderful post.

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  3. Vincent

    The heart troubled by judgment becomes insulated from the awesome beauty and drama of momentary living, a point the poem makes so poignantly. Guile is no substitute for wisdom, and force of mind will not replace radiance. We simply do not belong to the striving chaos of the humanly imposed world, and we certainly have no business contributing to it!

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  4. Judgements, one of the biggest obstacles to mankind. Does it not say in the Bible “judge not”. And yet we continue. It is as if we could hold one single drop of water in our hands, and believe that we know the ocean!!! Convinced of our widsom, proud of our knowledge!! Judgements can only know the “now”, and rarely are even able to preceive that much of what truly Is.

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    1. Gregg Hake

      It amazes me that so much effort is put in other directions while this monumental point is regularly overlooked. Eschewing this central tendency would quickly resolve most human suffering.

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  5. Colin

    Judgement destroys the sensitivity to life that we all have available to us. When you judge, you lose access to those subtleties. It is similar to a steamroller that is constantly rolling over baby plants that have just sprung up from the earth. we do not have access to the real motivations of others. Judging those motivations requires a guess, and humanity is just not qualified to make those calls.

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