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The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

Revised Second Edition


About The Book

Breathtaking in range, The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats includes all of the poems authorized by Yeats for inclusion and encompasses the entire arc of his career: reworkings of ancient Irish myths and legends, meditations on youth and old age, whimsical songs of love, and somber poems of life in a nation torn by war and uprising.

The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats includes all of the poems authorized by Yeats for inclusion in his standard canon. Breathtaking in range, it encompasses the entire arc of his career, from luminous reworkings of ancient Irish myths and legends to passionate meditations on the demands and rewards of youth and old age, from exquisite, occasionally whimsical songs of love, nature, and art to somber and angry poems of life in a nation torn by war and uprising. In observing the development of rich and recurring images and themes over the course of his body of work, we can trace the quest of this century's greatest poet to unite intellect and artistry in a single magnificent vision.

Revised and corrected, this edition includes Yeats's own notes on his poetry, complemented by explanatory notes from esteemed Yeats scholar Richard J. Finneran. The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats is the most comprehensive edition of one of the world's most beloved poets available in paperback.


Chapter 1


1 The Song of the Happy Shepherd

The woods of Arcady are dead,

And over is their antique joy;

Of old the world on dreaming fed;

Grey Truth is now her painted toy;

Yet still she turns her restless head:

But O, sick children of the world,

Of all the many changing things

In dreary dancing past us whirled,

To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,

Words alone are certain good.

Where are now the warring kings,

Word be-mockers? -- By the Rood

Where are now the warring kings?

An idle word is now their glory,

By the stammering schoolboy said,

Reading some entangled story:

The kings of the old time are dead;

The wandering earth herself may be

Only a sudden flaming word,

In clanging space a moment heard,

Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,

Nor seek, for this is also sooth,

To hunger fiercely after truth,

Lest all thy toiling only breeds

New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth

Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,

No learning from the starry men,

Who follow with the optic glass

The whirling ways of stars that pass --

Seek, then, for this is also sooth,

No word of theirs -- the cold star-bane

Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,

And dead is all their human truth.

Go gather by the humming sea

Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,

And to its lips thy story tell,

And they thy comforters will be,

Rewarding in melodious guile

Thy fretful words a little while,

Till they shall singing fade in ruth

And die a pearly brotherhood;

For words alone are certain good:

Sing, then, for this is also sooth.

I must be gone: there is a grave

Where daffodil and lily wave,

And I would please the hapless faun,

Buried under the sleepy ground,

With mirthful songs before the dawn.

His shouting days with mirth were crowned;

And still I dream he treads the lawn,

Walking ghostly in the dew,

Pierced by my glad singing through,

My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:

But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!

For fair are poppies on the brow:

Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.

2 The Sad Shepherd

There was a man whom Sorrow named his friend,

And he, of his high comrade Sorrow dreaming,

Went walking with slow steps along the gleaming

And humming sands, where windy surges wend:

And he called loudly to the stars to bend

From their pale thrones and comfort him, but they

Among themselves laugh on and sing alway:

ardAnd then the man whom Sorrow named his friend

Cried out, Dim sea, hear my most piteous story!

The sea swept on and cried her old cry still,

Rolling along in dreams from hill to hill.

He fled the persecution of her glory

And, in a far-off, gentle valley stopping,

Cried all his story to the dewdrops glistening.

But naught they heard, for they are always listening,

The dewdrops, for the sound of their own dropping.

And then the man whom Sorrow named his friend

Sought once again the shore, and found a shell,

And thought, I will my heavy story tell

Till my own words, re-echoing, shall send

Their sadness through a hollow, pearly heart;

And my own tale again for me shall sing,

And my own whispering words be comforting,

And lo! my ancient burden may depart.

Then he sang softly nigh the pearly rim;

But the sad dweller by the sea-ways lone

Changed all he sang to inarticulate moan

Among her wildering whirls, forgetting him.

3 The Cloak, the Boat, and the Shoes

'What do you make so fair and bright?'

'I make the cloak of Sorrow:

O lovely to see in all men's sight

Shall be the cloak of Sorrow,

In all men's sight.'

'What do you build with sails for flight?'

'I build a boat for Sorrow:

O swift on the seas all day and night

Saileth the rover Sorrow,

All day and night.'

'What do you weave with wool so white?'

'I weave the shoes of Sorrow:

Soundless shall be the footfall light

In all men's ears of Sorrow,

Sudden and light.'

4 Anashuya and Vijaya

A little Indian temple in the Golden Age. Around it a garden; around that the forest. Anashuya, the young priestess, kneeling Within the temple.

Send peace on all the lands and flickering corn. --

O, may tranquillity walk by his elbow

When wandering in the forest, if he love

No other. -- Hear, and may the indolent flocks

Be plentiful. -- And if he love another,

May panthers end him. -- Hear, and load our king

With wisdom hour by hour. -- May we two stand,

When we are dead, beyond the setting suns,

A little from the other shades apart,

With mingling hair, and play upon one lute.

Vijaya [entering and throwing a lily at her]. Hail! hail, my Anashuya.

Anashuya. No: be still.

I, priestess of this temple, offer up

Prayers for the land.

Vijaya. I will wait here, Amrita.

Anashuya. By mighty Brahma's ever-rustling robe,

Who is Amrita? Sorrow of all sorrows!

Another fills your mind.

Vijaya. My mother's name.

Anashuya [sings, coming out of the temple].

A sad, sad thought went by me slowly:

Sigh, O you little stars! O sigh and shake your blue apparel!

The sad, sad thought has gone from me now wholly:

Sing, O you little stars! O sing and raise your rapturous carol

To mighty Brahma, he who made you many as the sands,

And laid you on the gates of evening with his quiet hands.

[Sits down on the steps of the temple.]

Vijaya, I have brought my evening rice;

The sun has laid his chin on the grey wood,

Weary, with all his poppies gathered round him.

Vijaya. The hour when Kama, full of sleepy laughter,

Rises, and showers abroad his fragrant arrows,

Piercing the twilight with their murmuring barbs.

Anashuya. See how the sacred old flamingoes come,

Painting with shadow all the marble steps:

Aged and wise, they seek their wonted perches

Within the temple, devious walking, made

To wander by their melancholy minds.

Yon tall one eyes my supper; chase him away,

Far, far away. I named him after you.

He is a famous fisher; hour by hour

He ruffles with his bill the minnowed streams.

Ah! there he snaps my rice. I told you so.

Now cuff him off. He's off! A kiss for you,

Because you saved my rice. Have you no thanks?

Vijaya [sings]. Sing you of her, O first few stars,

Whom Brahma, touching with his finger, praises, for you hold

The van of wandering quiet; ere you be too calm and old,

Sing, turning in your cars,

Sing, till you raise your hands and sigh, and from your car-heads peer,

With all your whirling hair, and drop many an azure tear.

What know the pilots of the stars of tears?

Vijaya. Their faces are all worn, and in their eyes

Flashes the fire of sadness, for they see

The icicles that famish all the North,

Where men lie frozen in the glimmering snow;

And in the flaming forests cower the lion

And lioness, with all their whimpering cubs;

And, ever pacing on the verge of things,

The phantom, Beauty, in a mist of tears;

While we alone have round us woven woods,

And feel the softness of each other's hand,

Amrita, while --

Anashuya [going away from him].

Ah me! you love another,

[Bursting into tears.]

And may some sudden dreadful ill befall her!

Vijaya. I loved another; now I love no other.

Among the mouldering of ancient woods

You live, and on the village border she,

With her old father the blind wood-cutter;

I saw her standing in her door but now.

Anashuya. Vijaya, swear to love her never more.

Vijaya. Ay, ay.

Anashuya. Swear by the parents of the gods,

Dread oath, who dwell on sacred Himalay,

On the far Golden Peak; enormous shapes,

Who still were old when the great sea was young;

On their vast faces mystery and dreams;

Their hair along the mountains rolled and filled

From year to year by the unnumbered nests

Of aweless birds, and round their stirless feet

The joyous flocks of deer and antelope,

Who never hear the unforgiving hound.


Vijaya. By the parents of the gods, I swear.

Anashuya [sings]. I have forgiven, O new star!

Maybe you have not heard of us, you have come forth so newly,

You hunter of the fields afar!

Ah, you will know my loved one by his hunter's arrows truly,

Shoot on him shafts of quietness, that he may ever keep

A lonely laughter, and may kiss his hands to me in sleep.

Farewell, Vijaya. Nay, no word, no word;

I, priestess of this temple, offer up

Prayers for the land.

[Vijaya goes.]

O Brahma, guard in sleep

The merry lambs and the complacent kine,

The flies below the leaves, and the young mice

In the tree roots, and all the sacred flocks

Of red flamingoes; and my love, Vijaya;

And may no restless fay with fidget finger

Trouble his sleeping: give him dreams of me.

5 The Indian upon God

I passed along the water's edge below the humid trees,

My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,

My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl pace

All dripping on a grassy slope, and saw them cease to chase

Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak:

Who holds the worm between His bill and made us strong or weak

Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.

The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from His eye.

I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:

Who made the worm and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,

For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide

Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes

Brimful of starlight, and he said: The Stamper of the Skies,

He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He

Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?

I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:

Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,

He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night

His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.

6 The Indian to his Love

The island dreams under the dawn

And great boughs drop tranquillity;

The peahens dance on a smooth lawn,

A parrot sways upon a tree,

Raging at his own image in the enamelled sea.

Here we will moor our lonely ship

And wander ever with woven hands,

Murmuring softly lip to lip,

Along the grass, along the sands,

Murmuring how far away are the unquiet lands:

pardHow we alone of mortals are

Hid under quiet boughs apart,

While our love grows an Indian star,

A meteor of the burning heart,

One with the tide that gleams, the wings that gleam and dart,

The heavy boughs, the burnished dove

That moans and sighs a hundred days:

How when we die our shades will rove,

When eve has hushed the feathered ways,

With vapoury footsole by the water's drowsy blaze.

7 The Falling of the Leaves

Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,

And over the mice in the barley sheaves;

Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,

And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,

And weary and worn are our sad souls now;

Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,

With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

8 Ephemera

'Your eyes that once were never weary of mine

Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,

Because our love is waning.'

And then she:

'Although our love is waning, let us stand

By the lone border of the lake once more,

Together in that hour of gentleness

When the poor tired child, Passion, falls asleep:

How far away the stars seem, and how far

Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!'

Pensive they paced along the faded leaves,

While slowly he whose hand held hers replied:

'Passion has often worn our wandering hearts.'

The woods were round them, and the yellow leaves

Fell like faint meteors in the gloom, and once

A rabbit old and lame limped down the path;

Autumn was over him: and now they stood

On the lone border of the lake once more:

Turning, he saw that she had thrust dead leaves

Gathered in silence, dewy as her eyes,

In bosom and hair.

'Ah, do not mourn,' he said,

'That we are tired, for other loves await us;

Hate on and love through unrepining hours.

Before us lies eternity; our souls

Are love, and a continual farewell.'

9 The Madness of King Goll

I sat on cushioned otter-skin:

My word was law from Ith to Emain,

And shook at Invar Amargin

The hearts of the world-troubling seamen,

And drove tumult and war away

From girl and boy and man and beast;

The fields grew fatter day by day,

The wild fowl of the air increased;

And every ancient Ollave said,

While he bent down his fading head,

'He drives away the Northern cold.'

They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

I sat and mused and drank sweet wine;

A herdsman came from inland valleys,

Crying, the pirates drove his swine

To fill their dark-beaked hollow galleys.

I called my battle-breaking men

And my loud brazen battle-cars

From rolling vale and rivery glen;

And under the blinking of the stars

Fell on the pirates by the deep,

And hurled them in the gulph of sleep:

These hands won many a torque of gold.

They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

But slowly, as I shouting slew

And trampled in the bubbling mire,

In my most secret spirit grew

A whirling and a wandering fire:

I stood: keen stars above me shone,

Around me shone keen eyes of men:

I laughed aloud and hurried on

By rocky shore and rushy fen;

I laughed because birds fluttered by,

And starlight gleamed, and clouds flew high,

And rushes waved and waters rolled.

They will not hush, the leaves aflutter round me, the beech leaves old.

And now I wander in the woods

When summer gluts the golden bees,

Or in autumnal solitudes

Arise the leopard-coloured trees;

Or when along the wintry strands

The cormorants shiver on their rocks;

I wander on, and wave my hands,

And sing, and shake my heavy locks.

The grey wolf knows me; by one ear

I lead along the woodland deer;

The hares run by me growing bold.

They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

I came upon a little town

That slumbered in the harvest moon,

And passed a-tiptoe up and down,

Murmuring, to a fitful tune,

How I have followed, night and day,

A tramping of tremendous feet,

And saw where this old tympan lay

Deserted on a doorway seat,

And bore it to the woods with me;

Of some inhuman misery

Our married voices wildly trolled.

They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

I sang how, when day's toil is done,

Orchil shakes out her long dark hair

That hides away the dying sun

And sheds faint odours through the air:

When my hand passed from wire to wire

It quenched, with sound like falling dew,

The whirling and the wandering fire;

But lift a mournful ulalu,

For the kind wires are torn and still,

And I must wander wood and hill

Through summer's heat and winter's cold.

They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old.

10 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 the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the 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 he comes, the human child,

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

11 To an Isle in the Water

Shy one, shy one,

Shy one of my heart,

She moves in the firelight

Pensively apart.

She carries in the dishes,

And lays them in a row.

To an isle in the water

With her would I go.

She carries in the candles,

And lights the curtained room,

Shy in the doorway

And shy in the gloom;

And shy as a rabbit,

Helpful and shy.

To an isle in the water

With her would I fly.

12 Down by the Salley Gardens

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.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,

And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.

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.

13 The Meditation of the Old Fisherman

You waves, though you dance by my feet like children at play,

Though you glow and you glance, though you purr and you dart;

In the Junes that were warmer than these are, the waves were more gay,

When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

The herring are not in the tides as they were of old;

My sorrow! for many a creak gave the creel in the cart

That carried the take to Sligo town to be sold,

When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

And ah, you proud maiden, you are not so fair when his oar

Is heard on the water, as they were, the proud and apart,

Who paced in the eve by the nets on the pebbly shore,

When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

14 The Ballad of Father O'Hart

Good Father John O'Hart

In penal days rode out

To a shoneen who had free lands

And his own snipe and trout.

In trust took he John's lands;

Sleiveens were all his race;

And he gave them as dowers to his daughters,

And they married beyond their place.

But Father John went up,

And Father John went down;

And he wore small holes in his shoes,

And he wore large holes in his gown.

All loved him, only the shoneen,

Whom the devils have by the hair,

From the wives, and the cats, and the children,

To the birds in the white of the air.

The birds, for he opened their cages

As he went up and down;

And he said with a smile, 'Have peace now';

And he went his way with a frown.

But if when anyone died

Came keeners hoarser than rooks,

He bade them give over their keening;

For he was a man of books.

And these were the works of John,

When, weeping score by score,

People came into Coloony;

For he'd died at ninety-four.

There was no human keening;

The birds from Knocknarea

And the world round Knocknashee

Came keening in that day.

The young birds and old birds

Came flying, heavy and sad;

Keening in from Tiraragh,

Keening from Ballinafad;

Keening from Inishmurray,

Nor stayed for bite or sup;

This way were all reproved

Who dig old customs up.

15 The Ballad of Moll Magee

Come round me, little childer;

There, don't fling stones at me

Because I mutter as I go;

But pity Moll Magee.

My man was a poor fisher

With shore lines in the say;

My work was saltin' herrings

The whole of the long day.

And sometimes from the saltin' shed

I scarce could drag my feet,

Under the blessed moonlight,

Along the pebbly street.

I'd always been but weakly,

And my baby was just born;

A neighbour minded her by day,

I minded her till morn.

I lay upon my baby;

Ye little childer dear,

I looked on my cold baby

When the morn grew frosty and clear.

A weary woman sleeps so hard!

My man grew red and pale,

And gave me money, and bade me go

To my own place, Kinsale.

He drove me out and shut the door,

And gave his curse to me;

I went away in silence,

No neighbour could I see.

The windows and the doors were shut,

One star shone faint and green,

The little straws were turnin' round

Across the bare boreen.

I went away in silence:

Beyond old Martin's byre

I saw a kindly neighbour

Blowin' her mornin' fire.

She drew from me my story --

My money's all used up,

And still, with pityin', scornin' eye,

She gives me bite and sup.

She says my man will surely come,

And fetch me home agin;

But always, as I'm movin' round,

Without doors or within,

Pilin' the wood or pilin' the turf,

Or goin' to the well,

I'm thinkin' of my baby

And keenin' to mysel'.

And sometimes I am sure she knows

When, openin' wide His door,

God lights the stars, His candles,

And looks upon the poor.

So now, ye little childer,

Ye won't fling stones at me;

But gather with your shinin' looks

And pity Moll Magee.

16 The Ballad of the Foxhunter

'Lay me in a cushioned chair;

Carry me, ye four,

With cushions here and cushions there,

To see the world once more.

'To stable and to kennel go;

Bring what is there to bring;

Lead my Lollard to and fro,

Or gently in a ring.

'Put the chair upon the grass:

Bring Rody and his hounds,

That I may contented pass

From these earthly bounds.'

His eyelids droop, his head falls low,

His old eyes cloud with dreams;

The sun upon all things that grow

Falls in sleepy streams.

Brown Lollard treads upon the lawn,

And to the armchair goes,

And now the old man's dreams are gone,

He smooths the long brown nose.

And now moves many a pleasant tongue

Upon his wasted hands,

For leading aged hounds and young

The huntsman near him stands.

'Huntsman Rody, blow the horn,

Make the hills reply.'

The huntsman loosens on the morn

A gay wandering cry.

Fire is in the old man's eyes,

His fingers move and sway,

And when the wandering music dies

They hear him feebly say,

'Huntsman Rody, blow the horn,

Make the hills reply.'

'I cannot blow upon my horn,

I can but weep and sigh.'

Servants round his cushioned place

Are with new sorrow wrung;

Hounds are gazing on his face,

Aged hounds and young.

One blind hound only lies apart

On the sun-smitten grass;

He holds deep commune with his heart:

The moments pass and pass;

The blind hound with a mournful din

Lifts slow his wintry head;

The servants bear the body in;

The hounds wail for the dead.

Poems Copyright by Anne Yeats

Revisions and additional poems copyright © 1983, 1989 by Anne Yeats

Editorial matter and compilation copyright © 1983, 1989 by Macmillan Publishing Company

About The Author


William Butler Yeats is generally considered to be Ireland’s greatest poet, living or dead, and one of the most important literary figures of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (September 9, 1996)
  • Length: 576 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780684807317

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