The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats by W.B. Yeats

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

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, n...

Title:The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0684807319
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:544 pages

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats Reviews

  • John Doe
    Aug 16, 2007

    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 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

    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 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.

    W.B. Yeats

  • Matt
    Feb 12, 2008

    Yeats, Yeats, what can you say?

    Ireland. Mysticism. Longing. Despair. PO-etry!

    This is a surprisingly consistent, formidable, subtle and wide ranging

    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 w

    Yeats, Yeats, what can you say?

    Ireland. Mysticism. Longing. Despair. PO-etry!

    This is a surprisingly consistent, formidable, subtle and wide ranging

    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'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,

    ,

    ,

    ,

    , and on and on...

    And then there's this:

    You're right there, in a dream, in HIS dream, it's the

    . 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

    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

    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

    ,

    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...

    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

    all this, somehow, and he is just as overwhelmed by it as anyone else.

    .

    '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:

    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...

  • Manny
    Apr 17, 2010

    My favourite piece of Yeats, which I've known since I was a teenager. I've never really figured out what it means, but I think it's wonderful all the same:

    My favourite piece of Yeats, which I've known since I was a teenager. I've never really figured out what it means, but I think it's wonderful all the same:

  • Szplug
    Apr 04, 2013

    Not everything in here works for me, but Yeats is never less than a pleasure to read. As others have remarked upon, he's what one might describe as a

    : his rhythmic structure and rhymes flow off of the reading tongue—and at his best, he cannot be touched for the ariose beauty of his lyrical genius.

    Not everything in here works for me, but Yeats is never less than a pleasure to read. As others have remarked upon, he's what one might describe as a

    : his rhythmic structure and rhymes flow off of the reading tongue—and at his best, he cannot be touched for the ariose beauty of his lyrical genius.

    One of my favourites below, a lengthy verse that captures the very essence of disillusion amidst the wreckage of an apparent bounty of promise and progression. Yeats rises to the heights yet wielding the language of ash and benightment; no paens to the fey primordiality of Eire here, but rather poesy shaped with withering power:

  • Alexis Hall
    Apr 06, 2013

    Okay. Cards on the table.

    I'm not actually that into Yeats. I mean, he's fine, don't get me wrong. Kind of an interesting dude with his Cabalism and his Jacob Black-esque mother-to-daughter romantic transference thing.

    And some of his poetry I can't deny is pretty impressive stuff: the one about wishing for the cloths of the heaven, and the second coming, and the lake isle of innisfree. All that silver apples of the moon stuff. Very nice.

    But, honestly, I used to keep this on my bedside table in or

    Okay. Cards on the table.

    I'm not actually that into Yeats. I mean, he's fine, don't get me wrong. Kind of an interesting dude with his Cabalism and his Jacob Black-esque mother-to-daughter romantic transference thing.

    And some of his poetry I can't deny is pretty impressive stuff: the one about wishing for the cloths of the heaven, and the second coming, and the lake isle of innisfree. All that silver apples of the moon stuff. Very nice.

    But, honestly, I used to keep this on my bedside table in order to look sensitive so arty types would sleep with me.

    It, uh, did the job. FIVE STARS!

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    Aug 29, 2013

    The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats #1), W.B. Yeats, Richard J. Finneran (Editor)

    To a child dancing in the wind

    Dance there upon the shore;

    What need have you to care

    For wind or water's roar?

    And tumble out your hair

    That the salt drops have wet;

    Being young you have not known

    The fool's triumph, nor yet

    Love lost as soon as won

    Nor the best labourer dead

    And all the sheaves to bind

    What need have you to dread

    The monstrous crying of the wind?

    تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و نهم

    The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats #1), W.B. Yeats, Richard J. Finneran (Editor)

    To a child dancing in the wind

    Dance there upon the shore;

    What need have you to care

    For wind or water's roar?

    And tumble out your hair

    That the salt drops have wet;

    Being young you have not known

    The fool's triumph, nor yet

    Love lost as soon as won

    Nor the best labourer dead

    And all the sheaves to bind

    What need have you to dread

    The monstrous crying of the wind?

    تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و نهم آگوست سال 2013 میلادی

  • Alan
    Jan 30, 2015

    I have given hourlong recitations of Yeats's poems, among the easiest to recall in English; for example, his tetrameters in the late "Under Ben Bulben" which contains his epitaph. I defy you to say this aloud three times without knowing most of it by heart: "Whether man dies in his bed,/ Or the rifle knocks him dead,/ A brief parting from those dear/ Is the worst man has to fear." And his own epitaph is memorable, "Cast a cold eye/ On life, on death/ Horseman, pass by!" It is anti-conventional,

    I have given hourlong recitations of Yeats's poems, among the easiest to recall in English; for example, his tetrameters in the late "Under Ben Bulben" which contains his epitaph. I defy you to say this aloud three times without knowing most of it by heart: "Whether man dies in his bed,/ Or the rifle knocks him dead,/ A brief parting from those dear/ Is the worst man has to fear." And his own epitaph is memorable, "Cast a cold eye/ On life, on death/ Horseman, pass by!" It is anti-conventional, since most epitaphs were written by clergy to scare the readers back to church, like this one in Pittsfield, MA: "Corruption, earth and worms/ Shall but refine this flesh..." etc. I seriously doubt the interred was consulted about that one. Yeats counters, look at this grave, and fogggetaboutit, Pass by!

    By memory I still have "When you are old," his adaptation of Ronsard, "Lake Isle of Innisfree," so imitative of the water lapping the shores, in its medial caesuras, "I hear lake water lapping...Though I stand on the roadway..I shall arise and go now..." And so interesting that WBY first had a truism, "There noon is all a glimmer, and midnight a purple glow," which he reversed to the memorable, "There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon has a purple glow..." Ahh... a useful trick for writers. (My Ph.D. advisor Leonard Unger noted the influence of Meredith on Innisfree.) "The Second Coming," whose opening I said in my flight fears of landing. The problem in reciting that poem is "The worst are full of passionate intensity." I had to reduce the intensity of my aloudreading. "Sailing to Byzantium," and others.

    I have also set to music seven of Yeats' poems, including "Brown Penny," "Lullaby," "Her Anxiety," and even "Crazy Jane talks to the Bishop." Some of these tunes, played decades ago, can be heard on my google+ page, no middle initial.

    Yeats's son Michael, fathered in his late fifties, toured the US in the 70s. A friend in the Berkshires heard him recall his father mainly shooing him from the room to write or recite. Sounds accurate. (Maybe that's why Shakespeare lived in London, his kids in Stratford!)

    I mentioned learning Yeats at Leonard Unger's knee, but also from Chester Anderson, Joycean and Irish specialist.

  • Lisa
    Oct 17, 2016

    "For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately."

    This quote from Virginia Woolf’s

    comes to my mind when I sit down to have a closer look at one of my favourite poets. For it wasn’t Yeats I was searching for when I went through my shelves today. It was

    , Chinua Achebe’s classic novel. Seeing Yeats in the shelf, however, I remembered that the title is from his famous poem “The Second Coming”, and I opened the earmarked poetry c

    "For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately."

    This quote from Virginia Woolf’s

    comes to my mind when I sit down to have a closer look at one of my favourite poets. For it wasn’t Yeats I was searching for when I went through my shelves today. It was

    , Chinua Achebe’s classic novel. Seeing Yeats in the shelf, however, I remembered that the title is from his famous poem “The Second Coming”, and I opened the earmarked poetry collection, full of post-its and comments. And sure enough, there was a pink post-it showing the way to the lines I wanted:

    “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;...”

    Knowing the story of Things Fall Apart, it makes my heart break to think of the proud falcon in his natural habitat, suddenly threatened by the falconer with his sly methods and superior weapons, killing out of pleasure - a careless sportsmanship. This story in my mind takes a leap to present times, seeing it is still just as relevant, in many places, and I am mourning the contemporary falcon’s lost spirit in a world of falconers, destroying things because they can. The centre cannot hold.

    Reading on, I get curious to see where all my sticky notes indicate that my attention was sharpened, and of course, I find my handwriting next to a poem on a young man going to war. How could I not, reading this the last time in conjunction with

    ?

    “An Irish Airman Foresees 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;

    [...]”

    The sad truth of World War I, best expressed maybe in poetry or novels like

    . And as a counterpoint, with a sticky note in a different colour:

    “On Being Asked For A War Poem

    I think it better that in times like these

    A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth

    We have no gift to set a statesman right;

    He has had enough of meddling who can please

    A young girl in the indolence of her youth,

    Or an old man upon a winter’s night.”

    I remember pondering on the conundrum of accepting these lines as perfect truth while also being grateful that Yeats had not remained silent after all, that he had expressed his thoughts over and over again, in dramatic, long, narrative poems and short, lyrical ones, in stories of common people and kings and queens, in real-life poems and fairy tales. He had not been silent at all, but he resisted the command to produce poetry for politicians, to shout out the ancient heroic ideal “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” before sending soldiers to living hell.

    He wrote his own truth, and that of the island he loved and the culture he cherished. To review all his poems, and make them justice, would be a life time’s work. My favourite love poem is to be found in his collection as well:

    “When You are Old

    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;

    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.”

    I can’t read that often enough. “The pilgrim soul in you” sends a shiver down my spine every single time. Before I close the collection, my eye catches a poem that is not earmarked yet, that I must have read without thinking much about it last time. But now, it yells out its truth to me in a disturbing way:

    “Why should not Old Men be Mad?”

    Why should not old men be mad?

    Some have known a likely lad

    That had a sound fly-fisher’s wrist

    Turn to a drunken journalist;

    A girl that knew all Dante once

    Live to bear children to a dunce;

    A Helen of social welfare dream

    Climb on a wagonette and scream.

    Some think it a matter of course that chance

    Should starve good men and bad advance,

    That if their neighbours figured plain,

    As though upon a lighted screen,

    No single story would they find

    Of an unbroken happy mind,

    A finish worthy of the start.

    Young men know nothing of this sort,

    Observant old men know it well;

    And when they know what old books tell,

    And that no better can be had,

    Know why an old man should be mad.”

    It may be a sign of me getting older that I identify more and more with the disillusion of experience, but at the same time, reading poetry like this makes me feel passionately involved in life still!

    Yeats is a timeless treat!


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