I recently came across this lovely poem whilst watching the (excellent) TV show Rake

The song will have it
That those that we have loved got their long fingers
From death, and wounds, or on Sinai's top,
Or from some bloody whip in their own hands.
They ran from cradle to cradle till at last
Their beauty dropped out of the loneliness
Of body and soul.

Which the show attributes to Yeats. I'm afraid I don't know much about Yeats but as far as I can understand it's from a poem called The Phases of the Moon, which seems to be within a book called The Wild Swans at Coole.

So I have a few questions:

  1. Long fingers - Specifically regarding the above piece, what does long fingers represent?

  2. What does the poem mean? As best I can understand it its about life and what happens to a person shaping them until at last they get old and their beauty fades.

  3. The phases of the moon appears to be a larger story or play of some sort, is this Yeats' style? Is this a common style?

  4. The wider poem or story the phases of the moon, is there somewhere I can study what is going on? I'll admit to being somewhat clueless.

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