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date: 04 October 2022

W. B. Yeats 1865–1939
Irish poet 

  1. 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.’
    ‘Adam's Curse’ (1904)
  2. O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
    How can we know the dancer from the dance?
    ‘Among School Children’ (1928)
  3. A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
    All that man is,
    All mere complexities,
    The fury and the mire of human veins.
    ‘Byzantium’ (1933)
  4. That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.
    ‘Byzantium’ (1933)
  5. 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.
    ‘The Choice’ (1933)
  6. Now that my ladder's gone
    I must lie down where all the ladders start
    In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
    ‘The Circus Animals' Desertion’ (1939) pt. 3
  7. I made my song a coat
    Covered with embroideries
    Out of old mythologies.
    ‘A Coat’ (1914)
  8. For there's more enterprise
    In walking naked.
    ‘A Coat’ (1914)
  9. We were the last romantics — chose for theme
    Traditional sanctity and loveliness.
    ‘Coole Park and Ballylee, 1931’ (1933)
  10. The years like great black oxen tread the world,
    And God the herdsman goads them on behind,
    And I am broken by their passing feet.
    The Countess Cathleen (1895)
  11. A woman can be proud and stiff
    When on love intent;
    But Love has pitched his mansion in
    The place of excrement;
    For nothing can be sole or whole
    That has not been rent.
    ‘Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop’ (1932)
  12. Nor dread nor hope attend
    A dying animal;
    A man awaits his end
    Dreading and hoping all.
    ‘Death’ (1933)
  13. He knows death to the bone—
    Man has created death.
    ‘Death’ (1933)
  14. Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
    She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
    She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
    But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
    ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ (1889)
  15. She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
    But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
    ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ (1889)
  16. I have met them at close of day
    Coming with vivid faces
    From counter or desk among grey
    Eighteenth-century houses.
    I have passed with a nod of the head
    Or polite meaningless words.
    ‘Easter, 1916’ (1921)
  17. All changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.
    ‘Easter, 1916’ (1921)
  18. Too long a sacrifice
    Can make a stone of the heart.
    ‘Easter, 1916’ (1921)
  19. I write it out in a verse—
    MacDonagh and MacBride
    And Connolly and Pearse
    Now and in time to be,
    Wherever green is worn,
    Are changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.
    ‘Easter, 1916’ (1921)
  20. The fascination of what's difficult
    Has dried the sap of my veins, and rent
    Spontaneous joy and natural content
    Out of my heart.
    ‘The Fascination of What's Difficult’ (1910)
  21. Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
    Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have looked into the eye of day;
    The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.
    ‘From Oedipus at Colonus’ (1928); see Sophocles
  22. Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light.
    ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ (1899)
  23. I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
    ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ (1899)
  24. The light of evening, Lissadell,
    Great windows open to the south,
    Two girls in silk kimonos, both
    Beautiful, one a gazelle.
    ‘In Memory of Eva Gore Booth and Con Markiewicz’ (1933)
  25. The innocent and the beautiful
    Have no enemy but time.
    ‘In Memory of Eva Gore Booth and Con Markiewicz’ (1933)
  26. My country is Kiltartan Cross;
    My countrymen Kiltartan's poor.
    ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’ (1919)
  27. 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.
    ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’ (1919)
  28. The years to come seemed waste of breath,
    A waste of breath the years behind
    In balance with this life, this death.
    ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’ (1919)
  29. 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.
    ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ (1893)
  30. I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore…
    I hear it in the deep heart's core.
    ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ (1893)
  31. 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.
    ‘Leda and the Swan’ (1928)
  32. How can those terrified vague fingers push
    The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
    ‘Leda and the Swan’ (1928)
  33. A shudder in the loins engenders there
    The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
    And Agamemnon dead.
    ‘Leda and the Swan’ (1928)
  34. Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
    His mind moves upon silence.
    ‘Long-Legged Fly’ (1939)
  35. Did that play of mine send out
    Certain men the English shot?
    ‘The Man and the Echo’ (1939)
  36. We had fed the heart on fantasies,
    The heart's grown brutal from the fare.
    ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ no. 6 ‘The Stare's Nest by my Window’ (1928)
  37. Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
    And say my glory was I had such friends.
    ‘The Municipal Gallery Re-visited’ (1939)
  38. Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
    Was there another Troy for her to burn?
    ‘No Second Troy’ (1910)
  39. I think it better that at times like these
    A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth
    We have no gift to set a statesman right.
    ‘On being asked for a War Poem’ (1919)
  40. A pity beyond all telling,
    Is hid in the heart of love.
    ‘The Pity of Love’ (1893)
  41. An intellectual hatred is the worst,
    So let her think opinions are accursed.
    ‘A Prayer for My Daughter’ (1920)
  42. How but in custom and in ceremony
    Are innocence and beauty born?
    ‘A Prayer for My Daughter’ (1921)
  43. 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.
    ‘Remorse for Intemperate Speech’ (1933)
  44. 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.
    ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1928)
  45. 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.
    ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1928)
  46. And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
    To the holy city of Byzantium.
    ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1928)
  47. All think what other people think;
    All know the man their neighbour knows.
    Lord, what would they say
    Did their Catullus walk that way?
    ‘The Scholars’ (1919)
  48. 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 Second Coming’ (1921)
  49. The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    ‘The Second Coming’ (1921)
  50. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
    ‘The Second Coming’ (1921)
  51. Far-off, most secret and inviolate Rose.
    ‘The Secret Rose’ (1899)
  52. Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
    It's with O'Leary in the grave.
    ‘September, 1913’ (1914)
  53. And pluck till time and times are done
    The silver apples of the moon,
    The golden apples of the sun.
    ‘Song of Wandering Aengus’ (1899)
  54. Swift has sailed into his rest;
    Savage indignation there
    Cannot lacerate his breast.
    ‘Swift's Epitaph’ (1933); see Swift
  55. But was there ever dog that praised his fleas?
    ‘To a Poet, Who would have Me Praise certain bad Poets, Imitators of His and of Mine’ (1910)
  56. Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
    ‘To the Rose upon the Rood of Time’ (1893)
  57. Irish poets, learn your trade,
    Sing whatever is well made.
    ‘Under Ben Bulben’ (1939) pt. 5
  58. Cast your mind on other days
    That we in coming days may be
    Still the indomitable Irishry.
    ‘Under Ben Bulben’ (1939) pt. 5
  59. Cast a cold eye
    On life, on death.
    Horseman, pass by!
    ‘Under Ben Bulben’ (1939) pt. 6
  60. When you are old and grey 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.
    ‘When You Are Old’ (1893)
  61. Unwearied still, lover by lover,
    They paddle in the cold
    Companionable streams or climb the air;
    Their hearts have not grown old.
    ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ (1919)
  62. We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
    Essays (1924) ‘Anima Hominis’ sect. 5
  63. In dreams begins responsibility.
    Responsibilities (1914) epigraph
  64. Think like a wise man but express yourself like the common people.
    Letters on Poetry from W. B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley (1940) 21 December 1935; see Ascham