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Best Famous William Butler Yeats Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous William Butler Yeats poems. This is a select list of the best famous William Butler Yeats poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous William Butler Yeats poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of William Butler Yeats poems.

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12
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

Her Anxiety

 Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die, Alter at the best Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.
Such body lovers have, Such exacting breath, That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give, Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

A Dialogue Of Self And Soul

 My Soul.
I summon to the winding ancient stair; Set all your mind upon the steep ascent, Upon the broken, crumbling battlement, Upon the breathless starlit air, "Upon the star that marks the hidden pole; Fix every wandering thought upon That quarter where all thought is done: Who can distinguish darkness from the soul My Self.
The consecretes blade upon my knees Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was, Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass Unspotted by the centuries; That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn From some court-lady's dress and round The wodden scabbard bound and wound Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn My Soul.
Why should the imagination of a man Long past his prime remember things that are Emblematical of love and war? Think of ancestral night that can, If but imagination scorn the earth And interllect is wandering To this and that and t'other thing, Deliver from the crime of death and birth.
My Self.
Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it Five hundred years ago, about it lie Flowers from I know not what embroidery - Heart's purple - and all these I set For emblems of the day against the tower Emblematical of the night, And claim as by a soldier's right A charter to commit the crime once more.
My Soul.
Such fullness in that quarter overflows And falls into the basin of the mind That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind, For intellect no longer knows Is from the Ought, or knower from the Known - That is to say, ascends to Heaven; Only the dead can be forgiven; But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.
II My Self.
A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure? What matter if I live it all once more? Endure that toil of growing up; The ignominy of boyhood; the distress Of boyhood changing into man; The unfinished man and his pain Brought face to face with his own clumsiness; The finished man among his enemies? - How in the name of Heaven can he escape That defiling and disfigured shape The mirror of malicious eyes Casts upon his eyes until at last He thinks that shape must be his shape? And what's the good of an escape If honour find him in the wintry blast? I am content to live it all again And yet again, if it be life to pitch Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch, A blind man battering blind men; Or into that most fecund ditch of all, The folly that man does Or must suffer, if he woos A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
I am content to follow to its source Every event in action or in thought; Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot! When such as I cast out remorse So great a sweetness flows into the breast We must laugh and we must sing, We are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

All Souls Night

 Epilogue to "A Vision'

MIDNIGHT has come, and the great Christ Church Bell
And may a lesser bell sound through the room;
And it is All Souls' Night,
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table.
A ghost may come; For it is a ghost's right, His element is so fine Being sharpened by his death, To drink from the wine-breath While our gross palates drink from the whole wine.
I need some mind that, if the cannon sound From every quarter of the world, can stay Wound in mind's pondering As mummies in the mummy-cloth are wound; Because I have a marvellous thing to say, A certain marvellous thing None but the living mock, Though not for sober ear; It may be all that hear Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.
Horton's the first I call.
He loved strange thought And knew that sweet extremity of pride That's called platonic love, And that to such a pitch of passion wrought Nothing could bring him, when his lady died, Anodyne for his love.
Words were but wasted breath; One dear hope had he: The inclemency Of that or the next winter would be death.
Two thoughts were so mixed up I could not tell Whether of her or God he thought the most, But think that his mind's eye, When upward turned, on one sole image fell; And that a slight companionable ghost, Wild with divinity, Had so lit up the whole Immense miraculous house The Bible promised us, It seemed a gold-fish swimming in a bowl.
On Florence Emery I call the next, Who finding the first wrinkles on a face Admired and beautiful, And knowing that the future would be vexed With 'minished beauty, multiplied commonplace, preferred to teach a school Away from neighbour or friend, Among dark skins, and there permit foul years to wear Hidden from eyesight to the unnoticed end.
Before that end much had she ravelled out From a discourse in figurative speech By some learned Indian On the soul's journey.
How it is whirled about, Wherever the orbit of the moon can reach, Until it plunge into the sun; And there, free and yet fast, Being both Chance and Choice, Forget its broken toys And sink into its own delight at last.
And I call up MacGregor from the grave, For in my first hard springtime we were friends.
Although of late estranged.
I thought him half a lunatic, half knave, And told him so, but friendship never ends; And what if mind seem changed, And it seem changed with the mind, When thoughts rise up unbid On generous things that he did And I grow half contented to be blind! He had much industry at setting out, Much boisterous courage, before loneliness Had driven him crazed; For meditations upon unknown thought Make human intercourse grow less and less; They are neither paid nor praised.
but he d object to the host, The glass because my glass; A ghost-lover he was And may have grown more arrogant being a ghost.
But names are nothing.
What matter who it be, So that his elements have grown so fine The fume of muscatel Can give his sharpened palate ecstasy No living man can drink from the whole wine.
I have mummy truths to tell Whereat the living mock, Though not for sober ear, For maybe all that hear Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.
Such thought -- such thought have I that hold it tight Till meditation master all its parts, Nothing can stay my glance Until that glance run in the world's despite To where the damned have howled away their hearts, And where the blessed dance; Such thought, that in it bound I need no other thing, Wound in mind's wandering As mummies in the mummy-cloth are wound.
Oxford, Autumn 1920
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

Gratitude To The Unknown Instructors

 What they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

The Phases Of The Moon

 An old man cocked his car upon a bridge;
 He and his friend, their faces to the South,
 Had trod the uneven road.
Their hoots were soiled, Their Connemara cloth worn out of shape; They had kept a steady pace as though their beds, Despite a dwindling and late-risen moon, Were distant still.
An old man cocked his ear.
Aherne.
What made that Sound? Robartes.
A rat or water-hen Splashed, or an otter slid into the stream.
We are on the bridge; that shadow is the tower, And the light proves that he is reading still.
He has found, after the manner of his kind, Mere images; chosen this place to live in Because, it may be, of the candle-light From the far tower where Milton's Platonist Sat late, or Shelley's visionary prince: The lonely light that Samuel Palmer engraved, An image of mysterious wisdom won by toil; And now he seeks in book or manuscript What he shall never find.
Ahernc.
Why should not you Who know it all ring at his door, and speak Just truth enough to show that his whole life Will scarcely find for him a broken crust Of all those truths that are your daily bread; And when you have spoken take the roads again? Robartes.
He wrote of me in that extravagant style He had learnt from pater, and to round his tale Said I was dead; and dead I choose to be.
Aherne.
Sing me the changes of the moon once more; True song, though speech: "mine author sung it me.
' Robartes.
Twenty-and-eight the phases of the moon, The full and the moon's dark and all the crescents, Twenty-and-eight, and yet but six-and-twenty The cradles that a man must needs be rocked in: For there's no human life at the full or the dark.
From the first crescent to the half, the dream But summons to adventure and the man Is always happy like a bird or a beast; But while the moon is rounding towards the full He follows whatever whim's most difficult Among whims not impossible, and though scarred.
As with the cat-o'-nine-tails of the mind, His body moulded from within his body Grows comelier.
Eleven pass, and then Athene takes Achilles by the hair, Hector is in the dust, Nietzsche is born, Because the hero's crescent is the twelfth.
And yet, twice born, twice buried, grow he must, Before the full moon, helpless as a worm.
The thirteenth moon but sets the soul at war In its own being, and when that war's begun There is no muscle in the arm; and after, Under the frenzy of the fourteenth moon, The soul begins to tremble into stillness, To die into the labyrinth of itself! Aherne.
Sing out the song; sing to the end, and sing The strange reward of all that discipline.
Robartes.
All thought becomes an image and the soul Becomes a body: that body and that soul Too perfect at the full to lie in a cradle, Too lonely for the traffic of the world: Body and soul cast out and cast away Beyond the visible world.
Aherne.
All dreams of the soul End in a beautiful man's or woman's body.
Robartes, Have you not always known it? Aherne.
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.
Robartes.
The lover's heart knows that.
Aherne.
It must be that the terror in their eyes Is memory or foreknowledge of the hour When all is fed with light and heaven is bare.
Robartes.
When the moon's full those creatures of the full Are met on the waste hills by countrymen Who shudder and hurry by: body and soul Estranged amid the strangeness of themselves, Caught up in contemplation, the mind's eye Fixed upon images that once were thought; For separate, perfect, and immovable Images can break the solitude Of lovely, satisfied, indifferent eyes.
And thereupon with aged, high-pitched voice Aherne laughed, thinking of the man within, His sleepless candle and lahorious pen.
Robartes.
And after that the crumbling of the moon.
The soul remembering its loneliness Shudders in many cradles; all is changed, It would be the world's servant, and as it serves, Choosing whatever task's most difficult Among tasks not impossible, it takes Upon the body and upon the soul The coarseness of the drudge.
Aherne.
Before the full It sought itself and afterwards the world.
Robartes.
Because you are forgotten, half out of life, And never wrote a book, your thought is clear.
Reformer, merchant, statesman, learned man, Dutiful husband, honest wife by turn, Cradle upon cradle, and all in flight and all Deformed because there is no deformity But saves us from a dream.
Aherne.
And what of those That the last servile crescent has set free? Robartes.
Because all dark, like those that are all light, They are cast beyond the verge, and in a cloud, Crying to one another like the bats; And having no desire they cannot tell What's good or bad, or what it is to triumph At the perfection of one's own obedience; And yet they speak what's blown into the mind; Deformed beyond deformity, unformed, Insipid as the dough before it is baked, They change their bodies at a word.
Aherne.
And then? Rohartes.
When all the dough has been so kneaded up That it can take what form cook Nature fancies, The first thin crescent is wheeled round once more.
Aherne.
But the escape; the song's not finished yet.
Robartes.
Hunchback and Saint and Fool are the last crescents.
The burning bow that once could shoot an arrow Out of the up and down, the wagon-wheel Of beauty's cruelty and wisdom's chatter - Out of that raving tide - is drawn betwixt Deformity of body and of mind.
Aherne.
Were not our beds far off I'd ring the bell, Stand under the rough roof-timbers of the hall Beside the castle door, where all is stark Austerity, a place set out for wisdom That he will never find; I'd play a part; He would never know me after all these years But take me for some drunken countryman: I'd stand and mutter there until he caught "Hunchback and Sant and Fool,' and that they came Under the three last crescents of the moon.
And then I'd stagger out.
He'd crack his wits Day after day, yet never find the meaning.
And then he laughed to think that what seemed hard Should be so simple - a bat rose from the hazels And circled round him with its squeaky cry, The light in the tower window was put out.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

Blood And The Moon

 I

Blessed be this place,
More blessed still this tower;
A bloody, arrogant power
Rose out of the race
Uttering, mastering it,
Rose like these walls from these
Storm-beaten cottages -
In mockery I have set
A powerful emblem up,
And sing it rhyme upon rhyme
In mockery of a time
Half dead at the top.
II Alexandria's was a beacon tower, and Babylon's An image of the moving heavens, a log-book of the sun's journey and the moon's; And Shelley had his towers, thought's crowned powers he called them once.
I declare this tower is my symbol; I declare This winding, gyring, spiring treadmill of a stair is my ancestral stair; That Goldsmith and the Dean, Berkeley and Burke have travelled there.
Swift beating on his breast in sibylline frenzy blind Because the heart in his blood-sodden breast had dragged him down into mankind, Goldsmith deliberately sipping at the honey-pot of his mind, And haughtier-headed Burke that proved the State a tree, That this unconquerable labyrinth of the birds, century after century, Cast but dead leaves to mathematical equality; And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream, That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem, Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme; Saeva Indignatio and the labourer's hire, The strength that gives our blood and state magnanimity of its own desire; Everything that is not God consumed with intellectual fire.
III The purity of the unclouded moon Has flung its atrowy shaft upon the floor.
Seven centuries have passed and it is pure, The blood of innocence has left no stain.
There, on blood-saturated ground, have stood Soldier, assassin, executioner.
Whether for daily pittance or in blind fear Or out of abstract hatred, and shed blood, But could not cast a single jet thereon.
Odour of blood on the ancestral stair! And we that have shed none must gather there And clamour in drunken frenzy for the moon.
IV Upon the dusty, glittering windows cling, And seem to cling upon the moonlit skies, Tortoiseshell butterflies, peacock butterflies, A couple of night-moths are on the wing.
Is every modern nation like the tower, Half dead at the top? No matter what I said, For wisdom is the property of the dead, A something incompatible with life; and power, Like everything that has the stain of blood, A property of the living; but no stain Can come upon the visage of the moon When it has looked in glory from a cloud.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

The Cat And The Moon

 The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon, For, wander and wail as he would, The pure cold light in the sky Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance? When two close kindred meet.
What better than call a dance? Maybe the moon may learn, Tired of that courtly fashion, A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass From moonlit place to place, The sacred moon overhead Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils Will pass from change to change, And that from round to crescent, From crescent to round they range? Minnaloushe creeps through the grass Alone, important and wise, And lifts to the changing moon His changing eyes.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

Meditations In Time Of Civil War

 I.
Ancestral Houses Surely among a rich man's flowering lawns, Amid the rustle of his planted hills, Life overflows without ambitious pains; And rains down life until the basin spills, And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains As though to choose whatever shape it wills And never stoop to a mechanical Or servile shape, at others' beck and call.
Mere dreams, mere dreams! Yet Homer had not Sung Had he not found it certain beyond dreams That out of life's own self-delight had sprung The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams, And not a fountain, were the symbol which Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.
Some violent bitter man, some powerful man Called architect and artist in, that they, Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone The sweetness that all longed for night and day, The gentleness none there had ever known; But when the master's buried mice can play.
And maybe the great-grandson of that house, For all its bronze and marble, 's but a mouse.
O what if gardens where the peacock strays With delicate feet upon old terraces, Or else all Juno from an urn displays Before the indifferent garden deities; O what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease And Childhood a delight for every sense, But take our greatness with our violence? What if the glory of escutcheoned doors, And buildings that a haughtier age designed, The pacing to and fro on polished floors Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined With famous portraits of our ancestors; What if those things the greatest of mankind Consider most to magnify, or to bless, But take our greatness with our bitterness? II.
My House An ancient bridge, and a more ancient tower, A farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall, An acre of stony ground, Where the symbolic rose can break in flower, Old ragged elms, old thorns innumerable, The sound of the rain or sound Of every wind that blows; The stilted water-hen Crossing Stream again Scared by the splashing of a dozen cows; A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone, A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth, A candle and written page.
Il Penseroso's Platonist toiled on In some like chamber, shadowing forth How the daemonic rage Imagined everything.
Benighted travellers From markets and from fairs Have seen his midnight candle glimmering.
Two men have founded here.
A man-at-arms Gathered a score of horse and spent his days In this tumultuous spot, Where through long wars and sudden night alarms His dwinding score and he seemed castaways Forgetting and forgot; And I, that after me My bodily heirs may find, To exalt a lonely mind, Befitting emblems of adversity.
III.
My Table Two heavy trestles, and a board Where Sato's gift, a changeless sword, By pen and paper lies, That it may moralise My days out of their aimlessness.
A bit of an embroidered dress Covers its wooden sheath.
Chaucer had not drawn breath When it was forged.
In Sato's house, Curved like new moon, moon-luminous It lay five hundred years.
Yet if no change appears No moon; only an aching heart Conceives a changeless work of art.
Our learned men have urged That when and where 'twas forged A marvellous accomplishment, In painting or in pottery, went From father unto son And through the centuries ran And seemed unchanging like the sword.
Soul's beauty being most adored, Men and their business took Me soul's unchanging look; For the most rich inheritor, Knowing that none could pass Heaven's door, That loved inferior art, Had such an aching heart That he, although a country's talk For silken clothes and stately walk.
Had waking wits; it seemed Juno's peacock screamed.
IV.
My Descendants Having inherited a vigorous mind From my old fathers, I must nourish dreams And leave a woman and a man behind As vigorous of mind, and yet it seems Life scarce can cast a fragrance on the wind, Scarce spread a glory to the morning beams, But the torn petals strew the garden plot; And there's but common greenness after that.
And what if my descendants lose the flower Through natural declension of the soul, Through too much business with the passing hour, Through too much play, or marriage with a fool? May this laborious stair and this stark tower Become a roofless min that the owl May build in the cracked masonry and cry Her desolation to the desolate sky.
The primum Mobile that fashioned us Has made the very owls in circles move; And I, that count myself most prosperous, Seeing that love and friendship are enough, For an old neighbour's friendship chose the house And decked and altered it for a girl's love, And know whatever flourish and decline These stones remain their monument and mine.
V.
The Road at My Door An affable Irregular, A heavily-built Falstaffian man, Comes cracking jokes of civil war As though to die by gunshot were The finest play under the sun.
A brown Lieutenant and his men, Half dressed in national uniform, Stand at my door, and I complain Of the foul weather, hail and rain, A pear-tree broken by the storm.
I count those feathered balls of soot The moor-hen guides upon the stream.
To silence the envy in my thought; And turn towards my chamber, caught In the cold snows of a dream.
VI.
The Stare's Nest by My Window The bees build in the crevices Of loosening masonry, and there The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the state.
We are closed in, and the key is turned On our uncertainty; somewhere A man is killed, or a house burned, Yet no clear fact to be discerned: Come build in he empty house of the stare.
A barricade of stone or of wood; Some fourteen days of civil war; Last night they trundled down the road That dead young soldier in his blood: Come build in the empty house of the stare.
We had fed the heart on fantasies, The heart's grown brutal from the fare; More Substance in our enmities Than in our love; O honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the stare.
VII.
I see Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart's Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness I climb to the tower-top and lean upon broken stone, A mist that is like blown snow is sweeping over all, Valley, river, and elms, under the light of a moon That seems unlike itself, that seems unchangeable, A glittering sword out of the east.
A puff of wind And those white glimmering fragments of the mist sweep by.
Frenzies bewilder, reveries perturb the mind; Monstrous familiar images swim to the mind's eye.
'Vengeance upon the murderers,' the cry goes up, 'Vengeance for Jacques Molay.
' In cloud-pale rags, or in lace, The rage-driven, rage-tormented, and rage-hungry troop, Trooper belabouring trooper, biting at arm or at face, Plunges towards nothing, arms and fingers spreading wide For the embrace of nothing; and I, my wits astray Because of all that senseless tumult, all but cried For vengeance on the murderers of Jacques Molay.
Their legs long, delicate and slender, aquamarine their eyes, Magical unicorns bear ladies on their backs.
The ladies close their musing eyes.
No prophecies, Remembered out of Babylonian almanacs, Have closed the ladies' eyes, their minds are but a pool Where even longing drowns under its own excess; Nothing but stillness can remain when hearts are full Of their own sweetness, bodies of their loveliness.
The cloud-pale unicorns, the eyes of aquamarine, The quivering half-closed eyelids, the rags of cloud or of lace, Or eyes that rage has brightened, arms it has made lean, Give place to an indifferent multitude, give place To brazen hawks.
Nor self-delighting reverie, Nor hate of what's to come, nor pity for what's gone, Nothing but grip of claw, and the eye's complacency, The innumerable clanging wings that have put out the moon.
I turn away and shut the door, and on the stair Wonder how many times I could have proved my worth In something that all others understand or share; But O! ambitious heart, had such a proof drawn forth A company of friends, a conscience set at ease, It had but made us pine the more.
The abstract joy, The half-read wisdom of daemonic images, Suffice the ageing man as once the growing boy.
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