The Collected Poems

ISBN: 0684807319
ISBN 13: 9780684807317
By: W.B. Yeats Richard J. Finneran

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About this book

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 reworking 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 Yeat'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.

Reader's Thoughts


He's conceited. He's an elitist. He's sexist. He's more than a little crazy. But he's also a genius so we'll forgive him all that. That's what my Yeats teacher told me anyways!

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)

Found at- is a range to be found in the work of Yeats which owes much to the literary era he inhabited, one of transition towards modernism, which is mirrored in his own evolution as a poet, seen clearly here should one follow the the entries chronologically. However, Yeats himself was a trailblazer in many respects for this transition and his work is more than merely its portrait.It is just as well appreciated for the rejuvenation of old forms and themes (with impressive variety even at his earliest) with ornate imagery and allusion (always resonant, even where obscure), which segues into a more careful and spare style anticipating later modernist developments, and culminates with an informed reclaiming of form (which, significantly, never had trapped him), coming full circle.

Angela Young

I love many of Yeats's poems (and I often wonder about the difference in pronunciation between the Irish Yeats and the English Keats ... if anyone can explain I'd love to know why one is ay and the other ee when the same two letters combine in their names. Perhaps it simply is a matter of pronunciation ... something this language is prone to, let alone what happens when different accents speak the words). But to the main point: I once heard two of the Cusacks reading from Yeats, Cyril and his daughter Sinead, I think it was, many years ago at Kenwood House in north London, and to hear those lyrical Irish voices reading this most lyrical of Irish poets was a treat indeed.My very favourite, and the poem that makes me cry every time I read it or hear it, is 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' (it's on page 68 of this edition). It speaks to us all, deeply, of trust and love, so much so that I included lines from it towards the end of Speaking of Love

Kathryn Bashaar

I am trying to read the great Irish writers before we go to Ireland in 2014. I will probably not read every single poem in this book. Instead, I will browse it over the next few months, and keep a running list of the poems I like best. I can already see that Yeats was an inspiration for Mary Oliver, a modern poet I like very much. Favorite so far: The Wild Swans at CooleOthers I've liked:Prayer For My DaughterWhy Should Not Old Men Be Mad?And one which is surprisingly not included in this anthology but which I read in in anotheranthology:My Fiftieth YearI notice Yeats has a really hard time with aging when he hits his 60s. He describes living in his body as being "tied to a dying animal." I'm in my late 50s and don't feel that way at all yet. I still love living in a human body. But I must say it is dismaying when the body doesn't look as good as it used to and can no longer do all the things it used to. In the past month I've read about 20 poems. Some I liked, some I loved, some meant nothing to me. Overall, glad I dipped into this and may dip into it a little more right before we go to Ireland


When I was a junior in college minoring in music, I had to give a Voice Recital. In between my sets, I had a friend in the theatre department read some Yeats poetry. Yeats' poetry was as rich with ambiance and depth as any of the arias I sang. I was introduced to Yeats's poetry by the movie Memphis Bell, which quotes from one of this poets greatest poems, "An Irish Airman Forsees His Death." The poem, during only a few moments of film time,makes a profound contribution to the movie's emotional impact.This is a good edition for lover's of Yeats's poetry. I strongly recommend his work.


My favorite poet, though he shares that spot with Eliot. This is the most comprehensive edition of his poems available in major bookstores, a fact that I can attest to after having to track it down twice after giving my copies away. Yeats' meditations on aging are by far my favorite - though most people are more familiar with him than they know - "The Second Coming" alone contains at least eight lines which developed lives of their own in 20th century media.


One of my favorite poets.

Claudia Ciardi

There are in history so huge personalities, so creative and rich minds that they inlet at a deeper level the normal progress of arts and change without solution the direction of its stream.Of Dante Eliot said: Dante’s is a visual imagination.Of Yeats we can say that his poetry is visionary matter in a symbolic motion.All Yeats’ art could be read as a “formula alchemica” and we’re led on this path of symbols which feeds the visual associations at any rank. “The Wild Swans at Coole” celebrate the fashinating emotivity of a place, not only expressed in its geographical essence but more lived on the interior side, that Yeats’ verses trace in a pure state of grace.For many years in poet’s life, Coole represented the ideal shelter to rest from the efforts and pains. Lady Gregory, the Irish Rock, who introduced Yeats to the beauty of Coole, was the most important friend, host and advisor of him.“The Swans” are a sort of gallery open to the seasons of life, where the friends gone receive their tribute and take a definitive leave, but with a melanchonic brimming intonation, in the special strenght gave by memory.This burial hymn to a black and white faced Demeter catches the poet weighing up a collar-bone of a hare. And this primitive manufact “worn thin by lapping of water” offers the real vision of a world in defect and the confirmation of the artist's standing on the “sauvage” border, but finally free and authentic.Our eyes are struck by the whiteness, “being caught between the pull / of the dark moon and the full”, as the Homer’s Paragon in “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes”. We’re walking on the edge of “albedo”, and from the second stage of alchemic process we gain “the pitch of fully” as right reward, that is to say a true and firm glance on what we pass by living.

John Doe

I told my friend Nichole yesterday that I wasn't planning to live a long life. She said, "Why do you say that?" And I mumbled something about rock stars and creative people. But, I feel that I can become an old man when I read Yeats. This is a favorite:When You are OldWHEN 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. W.B. Yeats

Nick Black

When you hear a slouchIn your neighborhoodWhat troubles your sight?SPIRITUS MUNDI!(I ain't afraid of no rough beasts!)


Yeats, Yeats, what can you say?Ireland. Mysticism. Longing. Despair. PO-etry!This is a surprisingly consistent, formidable, subtle and wide ranging oeuvre and I'm not the only person to have overheard the suggestion that Yeats was the greatest poet of the 20th Century. Lets not forget the influence. Not only in Ireland but in elsewhere, as part of some variation on the human cultural inheritance. As far as I can tell, there were at least three major (to my mind, anyway) poets who admitted that when they were coming up they didn't just want to be LIKE Yeats, they wanted to BE Yeats, as one of them put it.* I mean, granted, he's insufferably emo (He Mourns the Change That Has Come Upon Him and His Beloved, and He Wishes For The World To End). He's tripping through the daisies, twisting his ankle, breaking his glasses, while he sings to the sun. He can't get over the fact that Maude Gonne won't let him even think about taking her shirt off, but she's a unique, mercurial, assured young woman with a pilgrim soul in her, which her darling poet loves. I mean, He Who Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, When You Are Old, No Second Troy, Down By the Salley Gardens, and on and on... And then there's this: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 streamAnd caught a little silver trout.When I had laid it on the floorI went to blow the fire a-flame,But something rustled on the floor,And some one called me by my name:It had become a glimmering girlWith apple blossom in her hairWho called me by my name and ranAnd faded through the brightening air.Though I am old with wanderingThrough 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 doneThe silver apples of the moon,The golden apples of the sun. You're right there, in a dream, in HIS dream, it's the Song of Wandering Aengus. A whole enchanted world is created, in perfect meter and with metronomyic lullaby. You believe him, somehow, or at least you believe the story. Do you mean to tell me that you doubt Wandering Aengus? Nu-uh. No way. It's in the repetition of the imagery and the phrases in the last few lines. It's the way the whole details of the story are told, unveiled, bit by bit. Just a touch, a glance, a little Keatsian faery girl, a belle dame sans merci with a perfect alibi. The mysticism is there, and it's hazy and, er, full of mist and glowing eyes and faery wings and stolen children and dolphins and mechanical birds in Byzantium and Helen of Troy and eternal roses and astrology and gods incarnating in the form of a swans while they fuck humans and darkness and eternity and "the murderous innocence of the sea"...ruins and secret fountains and rolling hills and caves (WBY slept in one for awhile, you country boys know how it gets when the evenings wind on endlessly under a deep summer sky) and witches and little clay-wattle huts, far from the pavement's gray, by a lazy river deep in Innisfree. And he can get political. I mean, this was a guy whose poetry and drama were front-row-seat essential to the literary lives and times of a centuries-subjugated, colonized, demoralized, quasi-Modern nation that underwent the convulsion of the failure of the Easter Rising in his day, to mention but one event amid the caterwaul of Ireland dragging itself kicking and screaming into the 20th Century. Yeats was a lover not a fighter, no dewy doubt about that, but he grappled with the living nightmare of history with sober eyes and a wide view of the horizon. By the way, that living nightmare bit was deliberate, ifyouknowwhatI'msayin', and rumor has it a cocky, mouthy young lad once approached the smiling public man in the streets and told him that he was too old to talk some sense into him and subsequently absconded to the continent and proceeded to write Dubliners, Portrait and so on and so forth... It's not so much that WBY was afraid or unwilling to enter into the burgeoning roil and confusion of the modern world (Lightbulbs! Radios! Trench Warefare! Relativity! Quantum theory! Dada! Jazz! Ezra Pound! Girls who smoke and gleefully shag sailors and stockbrokers and poets, too, but not poor Willy Yeats, by the looks of things, much to his eternal chagrin...) and his glassy-eyed, bookish haunting of wild Ireland starts to sound more like wish fulfillment or the pleasure principle, I can't remember which. It's more that I think he played a small(ish) but significant part in a larger, more complex, historically embedded and quite bloody awful historical moment. I mean, he had to live with praising the soldier who was married to his beloved (and screwing around on her, btw, for the record) in a stoic and bitter and ruminating poem about a failed rebellion which he definitively supported and he was big enough to bite down hard and publish the thing anyway... No, I think it's ok to give WBY the benefit of the doubt on this one. Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry. He knew damn well that words can have consequences, just like actions, and it's all well and good to huddle up by a candle in the library and proclaim your love for a woman or for the motherland or for Freedom and Justice or whatever but it's quite something else indeed to publicly submit one's statements for the record, when everybody's listening...All that I have said and done,Now that I am old and ill,Turns into a question tillI lie awake night after nightAnd never get the answers right.Did that play of mine send outCertain men the English shot?Did words of mine put too great strainOn that woman’s reeling brain?Could my spoken words have checkedThat whereby a house lay wrecked? It takes a lot of sand to ask yourself that question. Then there's this: How many times has this been quoted, from all over the body of the poem, particularly in places where its ominousness and austere power of facing, the apocalyptic mood that slowly spreads from word to word, from image to image...the speaker knows all this, somehow, and he is just as overwhelmed by it as anyone else. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. 'Twas it not ever thus? Where else? You can go for days. I had a teacher for Irish lit who once remarked, quite off the cuff, that nobody gets more out of a line that WBY. By way of demonstration:That civilisation may not sink,Its great battle lost,Quiet the dog, tehter the ponyTo a distant post;Our master Caesar is in the tentWhere the maps are spread,His eyes fixed upon nothing,A hand upon his head.Like a long-legged fly upon the streamHis mind moves upon silence.That the topless towers be burntAnd men recall that face,Move most gently if move you mustIn this lonely place.She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,That nobody looks; her feetPractise a tinker shufflePicked up on a street.Like a long-legged fly upon the streamHer mind moves upon silence.That girls at puberty may findThe first Adam in their thought,Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,Keep those children out.There on that scaffolding residesMichael Angelo.With no more sound than the mice makeHis hand moves to and fro.Like a long-legged fly upon the streamHis mind moves upon silence. You know that feeling you get when poetry happens? That quiet, satisfied hum that you do after the poem has finished, and begins to dissipate into the air. After the visitation. That quiet, hushed, ruminating feeling. Something is happening here and you don't know what it is... My best friend is a big fan of the show Lost. I've never seen it, myself, but it comes highly recommended and all that. The point being, he is fond of quoting the character Dexter, who is (I think) a Scottish guy given to charisma and/or eloquence or something. He's find of quoting Dexter's exultant, exuberant phrase "that's just POETRY, bruther"! I've never heard him *actually* say it, but I think I know what he means. What it is. What he's getting at. What it's all about. And if this stuff isn't it, then count me out of the human race. * Now, granted, the three poets I'm thinking of (Philip Larkin, John Berryman and Delmore Schwartz, if you're keeping score at home- and you should be) were, in their ways, degenerate pathetic alcoholics and therefore their somewhat maudlin affections for WBY might have been some kind of unconscious identification or projection onto the starry-eyed, gnomic singer of ballads and player of harps and whatnot, but still. Influence is a big indicator of admiration, y'see, like imitation and flattery, especially in the notoriously competitive vineyards of literature...


What can one say about William Butler Yeats accept that he was an amazing poet! He is a true inspiration to anyone who longs to write from their heart, mind, and soul. My favorite poem of his is entitled "Sailing to Byzantium" and contains some of the greatest lines ever written in poetry. Here is just a snippet: 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. Read more and be absorbed!I took my time throughout the year to slip between the pages of this volume and travel where Yeats dared to take me.


Aaah W.B, you were my first love! The first poet that ever made me cry real tears purely from the beauty of words. I travelled from the other side of the world to visit your grave and leave you flowers as thanks. It is very hard to pick a favourite poem but if pressed on the subject I guess it would be:He Wishes for the Cloths of HeavenHad I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with the golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams beneath your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams...

Frank Hickey

Yeats opens our eyes. He shows us through myth and tall tale how he sees theworld. In spare matter-of-fact words, he shows how the poet's visionmakes everything possible. There are no limits to the imagination. The love poems such as "When You Are Old" or "The Pity Of Love"show his genius. He matches that with strident fighting poems that tell of thestruggle between England and Ireland. But wars and politics will always fade. His gift for word and metaphor stay with us always. Readers new to Yeats will delight in these poems. -----Frank Hickey, writer of the Max Royster crime novels of PigtownBooks.

Matthew Bellamy

If Yeats had only ever written the "Circus Animals' Desertion," he would be remembered as a fine poet. If he had written that and "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen" he would be remembered as one of the greatest Irish poets. If he had written both of those and "Lapis Lazuli" he would be remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest poets. Add "Sailing to Byzantium," "The Tower," the "Double Vision of Michael Robartes," etc., and it becomes obvious the William Butler Yeats is the greatest English-language poet to have ever lived*. *my opinion of Yeats only includes his poetic self, not his political or personal selves, and is liable to change based on how Irish I feel on a given day.

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