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Best Famous William Butler Yeats Poems

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by William Butler Yeats | |

When You are Old

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep 
And nodding by the fire, take down this book, 
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look 
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; 

How many loved your moments of glad grace, 
And loved your beauty with love false or true; 
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, 
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
And bending down beside the glowing bars, Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead, And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray, I hear it in the deep heart's core.


by William Butler Yeats | |

THE SONG OF WANDERING AENGUS

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor I went to blow the fire aflame, But something rustled on the floor, And someone called me by my name: It had become a glimmering girl With apple blossom in her hair Who called me by my name and ran And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.


More great poems below...

by Joyce Kilmer | |

Easter Week

 (In memory of Joseph Mary Plunkett)

("Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.
") William Butler Yeats.
"Romantic Ireland's dead and gone, It's with O'Leary in the grave.
" Then, Yeats, what gave that Easter dawn A hue so radiantly brave? There was a rain of blood that day, Red rain in gay blue April weather.
It blessed the earth till it gave birth To valour thick as blooms of heather.
Romantic Ireland never dies! O'Leary lies in fertile ground, And songs and spears throughout the years Rise up where patriot graves are found.
Immortal patriots newly dead And ye that bled in bygone years, What banners rise before your eyes? What is the tune that greets your ears? The young Republic's banners smile For many a mile where troops convene.
O'Connell Street is loudly sweet With strains of Wearing of the Green.
The soil of Ireland throbs and glows With life that knows the hour is here To strike again like Irishmen For that which Irishmen hold dear.
Lord Edward leaves his resting place And Sarsfield's face is glad and fierce.
See Emmet leap from troubled sleep To grasp the hand of Padraic Pearse! There is no rope can strangle song And not for long death takes his toll.
No prison bars can dim the stars Nor quicklime eat the living soul.
Romantic Ireland is not old.
For years untold her youth will shine.
Her heart is fed on Heavenly bread, The blood of martyrs is her wine.


by William Butler Yeats | |

Parnell

 Parnell came down the road, he said to a cheering man:
'Ireland shall get her freedom and you still break stone.
'


by William Butler Yeats | |

Statistics

 'Those Platonists are a curse,' he said,
'God's fire upon the wane,
A diagram hung there instead,
More women born than men.
'


by William Butler Yeats | |

Never Give All The Heart

 Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy.
Kind delight.
O never give the heart outright, For they, for all smooth lips can say, Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough If deaf and dumb and blind with love? He that made this knows all the cost, For he gave all his heart and lost.


by William Butler Yeats | |

Remorse For Intemperate Speech

 I ranted to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.
I sought my betters: though in each Fine manners, liberal speech, Turn hatred into sport, Nothing said or done can reach My fanatic heart.
Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room, Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb A fanatic heart.


by William Butler Yeats | |

Girls Song

 I went out alone
To sing a song or two,
My fancy on a man,
And you know who.
Another came in sight That on a stick relied To hold himself upright; I sat and cried.
And that was all my song - When everything is told, Saw I an old man young Or young man old?


by William Butler Yeats | |

A Prayer For Old Age

 God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;

From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song's sake a fool?

I pray -- for word is out
And prayer comes round again --
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.


by William Butler Yeats | |

Sailing To Byzantium

 I

That is no country for old men.
The young In one another's arms, birds in the trees - Those dying generations - at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect.
II An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress, Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence; And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium.
III O sages standing in God's holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me Into the artifice of eternity.
IV Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enamelling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Ladys Second Song

 What sort of man is coming
To lie between your feet?
What matter, we are but women.
Wash; make your body sweet; I have cupboards of dried fragrance.
I can strew the sheet.
The Lord have mercy upon us.
He shall love my soul as though Body were not at all, He shall love your body Untroubled by the soul, Love cram love's two divisions Yet keep his substance whole.
The Lord have mercy upon us.
Soul must learn a love that is proper to my breast, Limbs a Love in common With every noble beast.
If soul may look and body touch, Which is the more blest? The Lord have mercy upon us.


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water

 I heard the old, old men say,
'Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.
' They had hands like claws, and their knees Were twisted like the old thorn-trees By the waters.
I heard the old, old men say, 'All that's beautiful drifts away Like the waters.
'


by William Butler Yeats | |

A Song From The Player Queen

 My mother dandled me and sang,
'How young it is, how young!'
And made a golden cradle
That on a willow swung.
'He went away,' my mother sang, 'When I was brought to bed,' And all the while her needle pulled The gold and silver thread.
She pulled the thread and bit the thread And made a golden gown, And wept because she had dreamt that I Was born to wear a crown.
'When she was got,' my mother sang, I heard a sea-mew cry, And saw a flake of the yellow foam That dropped upon my thigh.
' How therefore could she help but braid The gold into my hair, And dream that I should carry The golden top of care?


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Second Coming

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


by William Butler Yeats | |

Sweet Dancer

 The girl goes dancing there
On the leaf-sown, new-mown, smooth
Grass plot of the garden;
Escaped from bitter youth,
Escaped out of her crowd,
Or out of her black cloud.
Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer! If strange men come from the house To lead her away, do not say That she is happy being crazy; Lead them gently astray; Let her finish her dance, Let her finish her dance.
Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer!


by William Butler Yeats | |

Brown Penny

 I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair.
' Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing, There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon.


by William Butler Yeats | |

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

 Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


by William Butler Yeats | |

September 1913

 What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.
Yet they were of a different kind, The names that stilled your childish play, They have gone about the world like wind, But little time had they to pray For whom the hangman's rope was spun, And what, God help us, could they save? Romantic Ireland's dead and gone, It's with O'Leary in the grave.
Was it for this the wild geese spread The grey wing upon every tide; For this that all that blood was shed, For this Edward Fitzgerald died, And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone, All that delirium of the brave? Romantic Ireland's dead and gone, It's with O'Leary in the grave.
Yet could we turn the years again, And call those exiles as they were In all their loneliness and pain, You'd cry, 'Some woman's yellow hair Has maddened every mother's son': They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they're dead and gone, They're with O'Leary in the grave.


by William Butler Yeats | |

An Irish Airman Forsees His Death

 I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My county is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds; I balanced all, brought all to mind, The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death.


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Stolen Child

 Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
Where the wave of moonlight glosses The dim grey sands with light, Far off by furthest Rosses We foot it all the night, Weaving olden dances, Mingling hands and mingling glances Till the moon has taken flight; To and fro we leap And chase the frothy bubbles, While the world is full of troubles And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car,.
In pools among the rushes That scarce could bathe a star, We seek for slumbering trout And whispering in their ears Give them unquiet dreams; Leaning softly out From ferns that drop their tears Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child! To to waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For to world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
Away with us he's going, The solemn-eyed: He'll hear no more the lowing Of the calves on the warm hillside Or the kettle on the hob Sing peace into his breast, Or see the brown mice bob Round and round the oatmeal-chest.
For be comes, the human child, To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, from a world more full of weeping than you.


by William Butler Yeats | |

Leda And The Swan

 A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push The feathered glory from her loosening thighs? And how can body, laid in that white rush, But feel the strange heart beating where it lies? A shudder in the loins engenders there The broken wall, the burning roof and tower And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up, So mastered by the brute blood of the air, Did she put on his knowledge with his power Before the indifferent beak could let her drop? September 1923


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Fisherman

 Although I can see him still.
The freckled man who goes To a grey place on a hill In grey Connemara clothes At dawn to cast his flies, It's long since I began To call up to the eyes This wise and simple man.
All day I'd looked in the face What I had hoped 'twould be To write for my own race And the reality; The living men that I hate, The dead man that I loved, The craven man in his seat, The insolent unreproved, And no knave brought to book Who has won a drunken cheer, The witty man and his joke Aimed at the commonest ear, The clever man who cries The catch-cries of the clown, The beating down of the wise And great Art beaten down.
Maybe a twelvemonth since Suddenly I began, In scorn of this audience, Imagining a man, And his sun-freckled face, And grey Connemara cloth, Climbing up to a place Where stone is dark under froth, And the down-turn of his wrist When the flies drop in the stream; A man who does not exist, A man who is but a dream; And cried, 'Before I am old I shall have written him one poem maybe as cold And passionate as the dawn.
'


by William Butler Yeats | |

Adams Curse

 We sat together at one summer's end, 
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, 
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; For to articulate sweet sounds together Is to work harder than all these, and yet Be thought an idler by the noisy set Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen The martyrs call the world.
' And thereupon That beautiful mild woman for whose sake There's many a one shall find out all heartache On finding that her voice is sweet and low Replied: 'To be born woman is to know-- Although they do not talk of it at school-- That we must labour to be beautiful.
' I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be So much compounded of high courtesy That they would sigh and quote with learned looks Precedents out of beautiful old books; Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.
' We sat grown quiet at the name of love; We saw the last embers of daylight die, And in the trembling blue-green of the sky A moon, worn as if it had been a shell Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears: That you were beautiful, and that I strove To love you in the old high way of love; That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.


by William Butler Yeats | |

The Sorrow Of Love

 The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves,
The brilliant moon and all the milky sky,
And all that famous harmony of leaves,
Had blotted out man's image and his cry.
A girl arose that had red mournful lips And seemed the greatness of the world in tears, Doomed like Odysseus and the labouring ships And proud as Priam murdered with his peers; Arose, and on the instant clamorous eaves, A climbing moon upon an empty sky, And all that lamentation of the leaves, Could but compose man's image and his cry.