At midnight on All Souls' Night, the bells of Christ Church and other churches in Dublin ring through a room. Two glasses of wine bubble, and the speaker calls upon a ghost to drink the wine vapor. He chants:
I have a marvelous thing to say that only the living and the sober mock.
I call up Horton, an old friend. When his lady died, he could find no palliative, so he only wished for death. Meeting God and meeting her were mixed up in his mind, but whichever dominated for him lit up the sky.
I remember Florence Emery, who traveled to teach among dark-skinned people, so none would see her as she aged.
I call up MacGregor Mathers, who was a lunatic and with whom I had a falling out...but friends are forever. He was full of energy, before loneliness drove him crazy.
But it does not matter which ghost it may be, it only matters that he is insubstantial enough to drink wine vapor.
Although it seems crazy, and may make sober people cry and laugh for a whole hour, I need only this thought.
Yeats ends the collection on a quite personal note, with an expression of his own beliefs about the city of Dublin. Christ Church, mentioned in the first stanza, is the largest and best-known church in Dublin. The speaker celebrates alone, but finally finds a place for the dead in his universe - thereby solving, to some extent, the problem of whether there is life after death.
This poem is the Epilogue to a separate work, A Vision, a mystical piece that Yeats based on the cycles of the moon. “All Souls’ Night” shares this work's haunted sense that the speaker knows something that the audience does not. He might be willing to share, but it is as if he is on another plane. His knowledge and insights sound mad to a “sober” person.