by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.
I found the first four lines of this poem as the section marker of a book I am currently reading and wanted to know more. While I relish the clever and succinct use of rich words, I don't find truth in Yeats' inherent choice between life and work.
Isn't work the action of living?