William Butler Yeats

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    Biographical information

  1. A Poet To His Beloved
  2. Broken Dreams
  3. Cold Heaven
  4. He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes
  5. He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
  6. His Dream
  7. Memory Of Youth
  8. Presences
  9. The Arrow
  10. The Dawn
  11. The Everlasting Voices
  12. The Perfect Beauty
  13. The Ragged Wood
  14. The Secret Rose
  15. The Travail Of Passion
  16. The White Birds
  17. To A Shade




    Biographical information

      Name: William Butler Yeats
      Place and date of birth: Dublin (Ireland); June 13, 1865
      Place and date of death: Menton (France); January 28, 1939 (aged 73)

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      A Poet To His Beloved

        I bring you with reverent hands
        The books of my numberless dreams,
        White woman that passion has worn
        As the tide wears the dovegrey sands,
        And with heart more old than the horn
        That is brimmed from the pale fire of time:
        White woman with numberless dreams,
        I bring you my passionate rhyme.

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      Broken Dreams

        There is grey in your hair.
        Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath
        When you are passing;
        But maybe some old gaffer mutters a blessing
        Because it was your prayer
        Recovered him upon the bed of death.
        For your sole sake—that all heart's ache have known,
        And given to others all heart’s ache,
        From meagre girlhood’s putting on
        Burdensome beauty—for your sole sake
        Heaven has put away the stroke of her doom,
        So great her portion in that peace you make
        By merely walking in a room.

        Your beauty can but leave among us
        Vague memories, nothing but memories.
        A young man when the old men are done talking
        Will say to an old man, 'Tell me of that lady
        The poet stubborn with his passion sang us
        When age might well have chilled his blood'.

        Vague memories, nothing but memories,
        But in the grave all, all, shall be renewed.
        The certainty that I shall see that lady
        Leaning or standing or walking
        In the first loveliness of womanhood,
        And with the fervour of my youthful eyes,
        Has set me muttering like a fool.

        You are more beautiful than any one,
        And yet your body had a flaw:
        Your small hands were not beautiful,
        And I am afraid that you will run
        And paddle to the wrist
        In that mysterious, always brimming lake
        Where those that have obeyed the holy law
        Paddle and are perfect; leave unchanged
        The hands that I have kissed
        For old sake’s sake.

        The last stroke of midnight dies.
        All day in the one chair
        From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
        In rambling talk with an image of air:
        Vague memories, nothing but memories.

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      Cold Heaven

        Suddenly I saw the cold and rookdelighting Heaven
        That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
        And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
        So wild that every casual thought of that and this
        Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
        With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
        And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
        Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
        Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
        Confusion of the deathbed over, is it sent
        Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
        By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

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      He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes

        Fasten your hair with a golden pin,
        And bind up every wandering tress;
        I bade my heart build these poor rhymes:
        It worked at them, day out, day in,
        Building a sorrowful loveliness
        Out of the battles of old times.

        You need but lift a pearlpale hand,
        And bind up your long hair and sigh;
        And all men's hearts must burn and beat;
        And candlelike foam on the dim sand,
        And stars climbing the dewdropping sky,
        Live but to light your passing feet.

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      He Wishes For The Clothes Of Heaven

        Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
        Enwrought with golden and silver light,
        The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
        Of night and light and the halflight,
        I would spread the cloths under your feet:
        But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
        I have spread my dreams under your feet;
        Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

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      His Dream

        I swayed upon the gaudy stern
        The butt end of a steering oar,
        And everywhere that I could turn
        Men ran upon the shore.

        And though I would have hushed the crowd,
        There was no mother’s son but said,
        'What is the figure in a shroud
        Upon a gaudy bed?'.

        And fishes bubbling to the brim
        Cried out upon that thing beneath,
        —It had such dignity of limb,—
        By the sweet name of Death.

        Though I'd my finger on my lip,
        What could I but take up the song?
        And fish and crowd and gaudy ship
        Cried out the whole night long,

        Crying amid the glittering sea,
        Naming it with ecstatic breath,
        Because it had such dignity
        By the sweet name of Death.

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      Memory Of Youth

        The moments passed as at a play,
        I had the wisdom love brings forth;
        I had my share of mother wit
        And yet for all that I could say,
        And though I had her praise for it,
        A cloud blown from the cutthroat north
        Suddenly hid love's moon away.
        Believing every word I said
        I praised her body and her mind
        Till pride had made her eyes grow bright,
        And pleasure made her cheeks grow red,
        And vanity her footfall light,
        Yet we, for all that praise, could find
        Nothing but darkness overhead.
        We sat as silent as a stone,
        We knew, though she'd not said a word,
        That even the best of love must die,
        And had been savagely undone
        Were it not that love upon the cry
        Of a most ridiculous little bird
        Tore from the clouds his marvellous moon.

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      Presences

        This night has been so strange that it seemed
        As if the hair stood up on my head.
        From goingdown of the sun I have dreamed
        That women laughing, or timid or wild,
        In rustle of lace or silken stuff,
        Climbed up my creaking stair. They had read
        All I had rhymed of that monstrous thing
        Returned and yet unrequited love.
        They stood in the door and stood between
        My great wood lectern and the fire
        Till I could hear their hearts beating:
        One is a harlot, and one a child
        That never looked upon man with desire,
        And one it may be a queen.

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      The Arrow

        I thought of your beauty, and this arrow,
        Made out of a wild thought, is in my marrow.
        There's no man may look upon her, no man,
        As when newly grown to be a woman,
        Tall and noble but with face and bosom
        Delicate in colour as apple blossom.
        This beauty's kinder, yet for a reason
        I could weep that the old is out of season.

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      The Dawn

        I would be ignorant as the dawn
        That has looked down
        On that old queen measuring a town
        With the pin of a brooch,
        Or on the withered men that saw
        From their pedantic Babylon
        The careless planets in their courses,
        The stars fade out where the moon comes,
        And took their tablets and did sums;
        I would be ignorant as the dawn
        That merely stood, rocking the glittering coach
        Above the cloudy shoulders of the horses;
        I would be—for no knowledge is worth a straw—
        Ignorant and wanton as the dawn.

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      The Everlasting Voices

        O sweet everlasting voices be still;
        Go to the guards of the heavenly fold
        And bid them wander obeying your will
        Flame under flame, till Time be no more;
        Have you not heard that our hearts are old,
        That you call in birds, in wind on the hill,
        In shaken boughs, in tide on the shore?
        O sweet everlasting voices be still.

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      The Perfect Beauty

        O cloudpale eyelids, dreamdimmed eyes
        The poets labouring all their days
        To build a perfect beauty in rhyme
        Are overthrown by a woman's gaze
        And by the unlabouring brood of the skies:
        And therefore my heart will bow, when dew
        Is dropping sleep, until God burn time,
        Before the unlabouring stars and you.

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      The Ragged Wood

        O hurry, where by water, among the trees,
        The delicatestepping stag and his lady sigh,
        When they have looked upon their images
        Would none had ever loved but you and I!

        Or have you heard that sliding silvershoed
        Pale silverproud queenwoman of the sky,
        When the sun looked out of his golden hood?
        O, that none ever loved but you and I!

        O hurry to the ragged wood, for there
        I will drive all those lovers out and cry
        O, my share of the world, O, yellow hair!
        No one has ever loved but you and I.

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      The Secret Rose

        Far off, most secret, and inviolate Rose,
        Enfold me in my hour of hours; where those
        Who sought thee in the Holy Sepulchre,
        Or in the wine vat, dwell beyond the stir
        And tumult of defeated dreams; and deep
        Among pale eyelids, heavy with the sleep
        Men have named beauty. Thy great leaves enfold
        The ancient beards, the helms of ruby and gold
        Of the crowned Magi; and the king whose eyes
        Saw the Pierced Hands and Rood of elder rise
        In druid vapour and make the torches dim;
        Till vain frenzy awoke and he died; and him
        Who met Fand walking among flaming dew
        By a gray shore where the wind never blew,
        And lost the world and Emer for a kiss;
        And him who drove the gods out of their liss,
        And till a hundred morns had flowered red,
        Feasted and wept the barrows of his dead;
        And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown
        And sorrow away, and calling bard and clown
        Dwelt among winestained wanderers in deep woods;
        And him who sold tillage, and house, and goods,
        And sought through lands and islands numberless years,
        Until he found with laughter and with tears,
        A woman, of so shining loveliness,
        That men threshed corn at midnight by a tress,
        A little stolen tress. I, too, await
        The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.
        When shall the stars be blown about the sky,
        Like the sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?
        Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,
        Far off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?

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      The Travail Of Passion

        When the flaming lutethronged angelic door is wide;
        When an immortal passion breathes in mortal clay;
        Our hearts endure the scourge, the plaited thorns, the way
        Crowded with bitter faces, the wounds in palm and side,
        The hyssopheavy sponge, the flowers by Kidron stream:
        We will bend down and loosen our hair over you,
        That it may drop faint perfume, and be heavy with dew,
        Lilies of deathpale hope, roses of passionate dream.

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      The White Birds

        I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea!
        We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee;
        And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky,
        Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.
        A weariness comes from those dreamers, dewdabbled, the lily and rose;
        Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,
        Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:
        For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!
        I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,
        Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more;
        Soon far from the rose and the lily and fret of the flames would we be,
        Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!

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      To A Shade

        If you have revisited the town, thin Shade,
        Whether to look upon your monument
        (I wonder if the builder has been paid)
        Or happier thoughted when the day is spent
        To drink of that salt breath out of the sea
        When grey gulls flit about instead of men,
        And the gaunt houses put on majesty:
        Let these content you and be gone again;
        For they are at their old tricks yet.

        A man
        Of your own passionate serving kind who had brought
        In his full hands what, had they only known,
        Had given their children’s children loftier thought,
        Sweeter emotion, working in their veins
        Like gentle blood, has been driven from the place,
        And insult heaped upon him for his pains
        And for his openhandedness, disgrace;
        An old foul mouth that slandered you had set
        The pack upon him.

        Go, unquiet wanderer
        And gather the Glasnevin coverlet
        About your head till the dust stops your ear,
        The time for you to taste of that salt breath
        And listen at the corners has not come;
        You had enough of sorrow before death-
        Away, away! You are safer in the tomb.

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