CELT document E900041-001

A Selection from the Love Poetry of William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

A Selection from the Love Poetry of William Butler Yeats


    1. Early Poems 1890–1892

    1. The Pity of Love

  1. A pity beyond all telling
    Is hid in the heart of love:
    The folk who are buying and selling;
    The clouds on their journey above;
    The cold wet winds ever blowing;
    And the shadowy hazel grove
    Where mouse-grey waters are flowing
    Threaten the head that I love.
  2. 2. The Rose of Battle

  3. Rose of all Roses, Rose of all the world!
    The tall thought-woven sails, that flap unfurled
    Above the tide of hours, throuble the air,
    And God's bell buoyed to be the water's care
    While hushed from fear, or loud with hope, a band
    With blown, spray-dabbled hair gather at hand.
    Turn if you may from battles never done,
    I call, as they go by me one by one,
    Danger no refuge holds, and war no peace,
    For him who hears love sing and never cease,
    Beside her clean-swept hearth, her quiet shade:
    But gather all for whom no love hath made
    A woven silence, or but came to cast
    A song into the air, and singing past
    To smile on the pale dawn; and gather you p.2
    Who have sought more than is in rain or dew
    Or in the sun and moon, or on the earth,
    Or sighs amid the wandering, starry mirth,
    Or comes in laughter from the sea's sad lips;
    And wage God's battles in the long gray ships.
    The sad, the lonely, the insatiable,
    To these Old Night shall all her mystery tell;
    God's bell has claimed them by the little cry
    Of their hearts, that may not live nor die.
    Rose of all Roses, Rose of all the World!
    You, too, have come where the dim tides are hurled
    Upon the wharves of sorrow, and heard ring
    The bell that calls us on; the sweet far thing.
    Beauty grown sad with its eternity
    Made you of us, and of the dim gray sea.
    Our long ships loose thought-woven sails and wait,
    For God has bid them share an equal fate;
    And when at last defeated in His wars,
    They have gone down under the same white stars,
    We shall no longer hear the little cry
    Of our sad hearts, that may not live nor die.
  4. 3. When you are old

  5. 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;
  6.  p.3
  7. 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.
  8. And bending down beside the glowing bars
    Murmus, a little sadly, how love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
  9. 4. The Rose of the world

  10. Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?
    For these red lips, with all their mournful pride,
    Mournful that no new wonder may betide,
    Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,
    And Usna's children died.
  11. We and the labouring world are passing by:
    Amid men's souls, that waver and give place
    Like the pale waters in their wintry race,
    Under the passing stars, foam of the sky,
    Lives on this lonely face.
  12. Bow down, archangels, in your dim abode:
    Before you were, or any hearts to beat,
    Weary and kind one lingered by His seat;
    He made the world to be a grassy road
    Before her wandering feet.
  13.  p.4

    2. The Wind among the Reeds 1892–1897

    5. The Lover tells of the Rose in his Heart

  14. All things uncomely and broken, all things worn and old,
    The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
    The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
    Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
  15. The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
    I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
    With the earth and the sky and the water, remade, like a casket of gold
    For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.
  16. 6. The Lover mourns for the loss of Love

  17. Pale brows, still hands and dim hair,
    I had a beautiful friend
    And dreamed that the old despair
    Would end in love in the end:
    She looked in my heart one day
    And saw your image was there;
    She has gone weeping away.
  18.  p.5

    7. He mourns for the change that has come upon him and his beloved and longs for the end of the world

  19. Do you not hear me calling, white deer with no horns!
    I have been changed to a hound with one red ear;
    I have been in the Path of Stones and the Wood of Thorns,
    For somebody hid hatred and hope and desire and fear
    Under my feet that they follow you night and day.
    A man with a hazel wand came without sound;
    He changed me suddenly; I was looking another way;
    And now my calling is but the calling of a hound;
    And Time and Birth and Change are hurrying by.
    I would that the Boar without bristles had come from the West
    And had rooted the sun and moon and stars out of the sky
    And lay in the darkness, grunting, and turning to his rest.
  20. 8. He tells of a valley full of lovers

  21. I dreamed that I stood in a valley, and amid sighs,
    For happy lovers passed two by two where I stood;
    And I dreamed my lost love came stealthily out of the wood
    With her cloud-pale eyelids falling on dream-dimmed eyes:
    I cried in my dream, O women, bid the young men lay
    Their heads on your knees, and drown their eyes with your hair,
    Or remembering hers they will find no other face fair
    Till all the valleys of the world have been withered away.
  22.  p.6

    9. He remembers forgotten Beauty

  23. When my arms wrap you round I press
    My heart upon the loveliness
    That has long faded from the world;
    The jewelled crowns that kings have hurled
    In shadowy pools, when armies fled;
    The love-tales wrought with silken thread
    By dreaming ladies upon cloth
    That has made fat the murderous moth;
    The roses that of old time were
    Woven by ladies in their hair.
    The dew-cold lilies ladies bore
    Through many a sacred corridor
    Where such gray clouds of incense rose
    That only the gods' eyes did not close:
    For that pale breast and lingering hand
    Come from a more dream-heavy land,
    A more dream-heavy hour than this;
    And when you sigh from kiss to kiss
    I hear white Beauty sighing, too,
    For hours when all must fade like dew,
    All but the flames, and deep on deep.
    Throne over throne where in half sleep.
    Their swords upon their iron knees,
    Brood her high lonely mysteries.
  24.  p.7

    10. He bids his beloved be at peace

  25. I hear the Shadowy Horses, their long manes a-shake,
    Their hoofs heavy with tumult, their eyes glimmering white;
    The North unfolds above them clinging, creeping night,
    The East her hidden joy before the morning break,
    The West weeps in pale dew and sighs passing away,
    The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire:
    O vanity of Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire,
    The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay:
    Beloved, let your eyes half close, and your heart beat
    Over my heart, and your hair fall over my breast,
    Drowning love's lonely hour in deep twilight of rest,
    And hiding their tossing manes and their tumultuous feet.
  26. 11. He gives his beloved certain rhymes

  27. 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.
  28. You need but lift a pearl-pale hand,
    And bind up your long hair and sigh;
    And all men's hearts must burn and beat;
    And candle-like foam on the dim sand,
    And stars climbing the dew-dropping sky,
    Live but to light your passing feet.
  29.  p.8

    12. He tells of the perfect Beauty

  30. O cloud-pale eyelids, dream-dimmed 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.
  31. 13. He reproves the curlew

  32. O, curlew, cry no more in the air,
    Or only to the waters in the West;
    Because your crying brings to my mind
    Passion-dimmed eyes and long heavy hair
    That was shaken out over my breast:
    There is enough evil in the crying of wind.
  33. 14. The travail of passion

  34. When the flaming lute-thronged 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 hyssop-heavy 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 death-pale hope, roses of passionate dream.
  35.  p.9

    15. The lover asks forgiveness because of his many moods

  36. If this importunate heart trouble your peace
    With words lighter than air,
    Or hopes that in mere hoping flicker and cease;
    Crumple the rose in your hair;
    And cover your lips with odorous twilight and say,
    '0 hearts of wind-blown flame!
    O Winds, elder than changing of night and day,
    That murmuring and longing came
    From marble cities loud with tabors of old
    In dove-gray faery lands;
    From battle banners, fold upon purple fold,
    Queens wrought with glimmering hands;
    That saw young Niamh hover with love-lorn face
    Above the wandering tide;
    And lingered in the hidden desolate place
    Where the last Phoenix died,
    And wrapped the flames above his holy head;
    And still murmur and long:
    O Piteous Hearts, changing till change be dead
    In a tumultuous song:'
    And cover the pale blossoms of your breast
    With your dim heavy hair.
    And trouble with a sigh for all things longing for rest
    The odorous twilight there.
  37.  p.10

    16. The lover pleads with his friend for old friends

  38. Though you are in your shining days,
    Voices among the crowd
    And new friends busy with your praise,
    Be not unkind or proud,
    But think about old friends the most:
    Time's bitter flood will rise,
    Your beauty perish and be lost
    For all eyes but these eyes.
  39. 17. He wishes his beloved were dead

  40. Were you but lying cold and dead,
    And lights were paling out of the West,
    You would come hither, and bend your head,
    And I would lay my head on your breast;
    And you would murmur tender words,
    Forgiving me, because you were dead:
    Nor would you rise and hasten away,
    Though you have the will of the wild birds,
    But know your hair was bound and wound
    Above the stars and moon and sun:
    O would, beloved, that you lay
    Under the dock-leaves in the ground,
    While lights were paling one by one.
  41.  p.11

    18. A poet to his beloved

  42. I bring you with reverent hands
    The books of my numberless dreams;
    White woman that passion has worn
    As the tide wears the dove-gray 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.
  43. 19. He wishes for the cloths of heaven

  44. 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 half light,
    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.
  45.  p.12

    3. In the Seven Woods 1897–1904

    20. Adam's curse

  46. We sat together at one summer's end,
    That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
    And you and I, and talked of poetry.
  47. 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.
    Better go down upon your marrow-bones
    And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
    Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
    For to articulate sweet sounds together
    Is to work harder than all these, and yet
    Be thought an idler by the noisy set
    Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
    The martyrs call the world.'
  48. That woman then
    Murmured with her young voice, for whose mild sake
    There's many a one shall find out all heartache
    In finding that it's young and mild and low:
    'There is one thing that all we women know,
    Although we never heard of it at school—
    That we must labour to be beautiful.'
  49.  p.13
  50. I said: 'It's certain there is no fine thing
    Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
    There have been lovers who thought love should be
    So much compounded of high courtesy
    That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
    Precedents out of beautiful old books;
    Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'
  51. We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
    We saw the last embers of daylight die,
    And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
    A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
    Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
    About the stars and broke in days and years.
  52. I had a thought for no one's but your ears;
    That you were beautiful, and that I strove
    To love you in the old high way of love;
    That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
    As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
  53. 21. The folly of being comforted

  54. One that is ever kind said yesterday:
    'Your well-beloved's hair has threads of grey,
    And little shadows come about her eyes;
    Time can but make it easier to be wise,
    Though now it's hard, till trouble is at an end; p.14
    And so be patient, be wise and patient, friend.'
    But, heart, there is no comfort, not a grain;
    Time can but make her beauty over again.
    Because of that great nobleness of hers
    The fire that stirs about her when she stirs
    Burns but more clearly. O she had not these ways,
    When all the wild summer was in her gaze.
    O heart ! O heart ! if she'd but turn her head,
    You'd know the folly of being comforted.
  55. 22. Old Memory

  56. Thought fly to her when the end of day
    Awakens an old memory, and say,
    'Your strength, that is so lofty and fierce and kind,
    It might call up a new age, calling to mind
    The queens that were imagined long ago,
    Is but half yours: he kneaded in the dough
    Through the long years of youth, and who would have thought
    It all, and more than it all, would come to naught,
    And that dear words meant nothing?' But enough,
    For when we have blamed the wind we can blame love;
    Or, if there needs be more, be nothing said
    That would be harsh for children that have strayed.
  57. 23. Under the moon

  58. I have no happiness in dreaming of Brycelinde,
    Nor Avalon the grass-green hollow, nor Joyous Isle, p.15
    Where one found Lancelot crazed and hid him for a while;
    Nor Ulad, when Naoise had thrown a sail upon the wind,
    Nor lands that seem too dim to be burdens on the heart;
    Land-under-Wave, where out of the moon's light and the sun's
    Seven old sisters wind the threads of the long-lived ones;
    Land-of-the-Tower, where Aengus has thrown the gates apart,
    And Wood-of-Wonders, where one kills an ox at dawn,
    To find it when night falls laid on a golden bier:
    Therein are many queens like Branwen and Guinivere;
    And Niamh and Laban and Fand, who could change to an otter or fawn,
    And the wood-woman, whose lover was changed to a blue-eyed hawk;
    And whether I go in my dreams by woodland, or dun, or shore,
    Or on the unpeopled waves with kings to pull at the oar,
    I hear the harp-string praise them, or hear their mournful talk.
    Because of a story I heard under the thin horn
    Of the third moon, that hung between the night and the day,
    To dream of women whose beauty was folded in dismay.
    Even in an old story, is a burden not to be borne.
  59. 24. Baile and Aillinn

  60. Argument.  1Baile and Aillinn were lovers, but Aengus, the Master of Love, wishing them to be happy in his own land among the dead, told to each a story of the other's death, so that their hearts were broken and they died.
  61.  p.16
  62. I hardly hear the curlew cry,
    Nor the grey rush when wind is high,
    Before my thoughts begin to run
    On the heir of Ulad, Buan's son,
    Baile who had the honey mouth,
    And that mild woman of the south,
    Aillinn, who was King Lugaid's heir.
    Their love was never drowned in care
    Of this or that thing, nor grew cold
    Because their bodies had grown old;
    Being forbid to marry on earth
    They blossomed to immortal mirth.
  63. About the time when Christ was born,
    When the long wars for the White Horn
    And the Brown Bull had not yet come,
    Young Baile Honey-Mouth, whom some
    Called rather Baile Little-Land,
    Rode out of Emain with a band
    Of harpers and young men, and they
    Imagined, as they struck the way
    To many pastured Muirthemne,
    That all things fell out happily
    And there, for all that fools had said,
    Baile and Aillinn would be wed.
  64. They found an old man running there,
    He had ragged long grass-yellow hair; p.17
    He had knees that stuck out of his hose;
    He had puddle water in his shoes;
    He had half a cloak to keep him dry;
    Although he had a squirrel's eye.
    O wandering birds and rushy beds,
    You put such folly in our heads
    With all this crying in the wind
    No common love is to our mind,
    And our poor Kate or Nan is less
    Than any whose unhappiness
    Awoke the harp strings long ago.
    Yet they that know all things but know
    That all life had to give us is
    A child's laughter, a woman s kiss.
    Who was it put so great a scorn
    In the grey reeds that night and morn
    Are trodden and broken by the herds,
    And in the light bodies of birds
    That north wind tumbles to and fro
    And pinches among hail and snow?
  65. That runner said 'I am from the south;
    I run to Baile Honey-Mouth
    To tell him how the girl Aillinn
    Rode from the country of her kin
    And old and young men rode with her:
    For all that country had been astir p.18
    If anybody half as fair
    Had chosen a husband anywhere
    But where it could see her every day.
    When they had ridden a little way
    An old man caught the horse's head
    With 'You must home again and wed
    With somebody in your own land.'
    A young man cried and kissed her hand
    'O lady, wed with one of us;'
    And when no face grew piteous
    For any gentle thing she spake
    She fell and died of the heart-break.'
  66. Because a lover's heart's worn out
    Being tumbled and blown about
    By its own blind imagining,
    And will believe that anything
    That is bad enough to be true, is true,
    Baile's heart was broken in two;
    And he being laid upon green boughs
    Was carried to the goodly house
    Where the hound of Ulad sat before
    The brazen pillars of his door;
    His face bowed low to weep the end
    Of the harper's daughter and her friend;
    For although years had passed away
    He always wept them on that day, p.19
    For on that day they had been betrayed;
    And now that Honey-Mouth is laid
    Under a cairn of sleepy stone
    Before his eyes, he has tears for none,
    Although he is carrying stone, but two
    For whom the cairn's but heaped anew.
  67. We hold because our memory is
    So full of that thing and of this
    That out of sight is out of mind.
    But the grey rush under the wind
    And the grey bird with crooked bill
    Have such long memories that they still
    Remember Deirdre and her man,
    And when we walk with Kate or Nan
    About the windy water side
    Our heart can hear the voices chide.
    How could we be so soon content
    Who know the way that Naoise went?
    And they have news of Deirdre's eyes
    Who being lovely was so wise,
    Ah wise, my heart knows well how wise.
  68. Now had that old gaunt crafty one,
    Gathering his cloak about him, run
    Where Aillinn rode with waiting maids
    Who amid leafy lights and shades p.20
    Dreamed of the hands that would unlace
    Their bodices in some dim place
    When they had come to the marriage bed;
    And harpers pondering with bowed head
    A music that had thought enough
    Of the ebb of all things to make love
    Grow gentle without sorrowings;
    And leather-coated men with slings
    Who peered about on every side;
    And amid leafy light he cried,
    'He is well out of wind and wave,
    They have heaped the stones above his grave
    In Muirthemne and over it
    In changeless Ogham letters writ
    Baile that was of Rury's seed.
    But the gods long ago decreed
    No waiting maid should ever spread
    Baile and Aillinn's marriage bed,
    For they should clip and clip again
    Where wild bees hive on the Great Plain.
    Therefore it is but little news
    That put this hurry in my shoes.'
  69. And hurrying to the south he came
    To that high hill the herdsmen name
    The Hill Seat of Leighin, because
    Some god or king had made the laws p.21
    That held the land together there,
    In old times among the clouds of the air.
  70. That old man climbed; the day grew dim;
    Two swans came flying up to him
    Linked by a gold chain each to each
    And with low murmuring laughing speech
    Alighted on the windy grass.
    They knew him: his changed body was
    Tall, proud and ruddy, and light wings
    Were hovering over the harp strings
    That Etain, Midhir's wife, had wove
    In the hid place, being crazed by love.
  71. What shall I call them? fish that swim
    Scale rubbing scale where light is dim
    By a broad water-lily leaf;
    Or mice in the one wheaten sheaf
    Forgotten at the threshing place;
    Or birds lost in the one clear space
    Of morning light in a dim sky;
    Or it may be, the eyelids of one eye
    Or the door pillars of one house,
    Or two sweet blossoming apple boughs
    That have one shadow on the ground;
    Or the two strings that made one sound
    Where that wise harper's finger ran; p.22
    For this young girl and this young man
    Have happiness without an end
    Because they have made so good a friend.
    They know all wonders, for they pass
    The towery gates of Gorias
    And Findrias and Falias
    And long-forgotten Murias,
    Among the giant kings whose hoard
    Cauldron and spear and stone and sword
    Was robbed before Earth gave the wheat;
    Wandering from broken street to street
    They come where some huge watcher is
    And tremble with their love and kiss,
  72. They know undying things, for they
    Wander where earth withers away,
    Though nothing troubles the great streams
    But light from the pale stars, and gleams
    From the holy orchards, where there is none
    But fruit that is of precious stone,
    Or apples of the sun and moon.
  73. What were our praise to them: they eat
    Quiet's wild heart, like daily meat,
    Who when night thickens are afloat
    On dappled skins in a glass boat
    Far out under a windless sky, p.23
    While over them birds of Aengus fly,
    And over the tiller and the prow
    And waving white wings to and fro
    Awaken wanderings of light air
    To stir their coverlet and their hair.
  74. And poets found, old writers say,
    A yew tree where his body lay,
    But a wild apple hid the grass
    With its sweet blossom where hers was;
    And being in good heart, because
    A better time had come again
    After the deaths of many men,
    And that long fighting at the ford,
    They wrote on tablets of thin board.
    Made of the apple and the yew,
    All the love stories that they knew.
  75. Let rush and bird cry out their fill
    Of the harper's daughter if they will,
    Beloved, l am not afraid of her
    She is not wiser nor lovelier,
    And you are more high of heart than she
    For all her wanderings over-sea;
    But I'd have bird and rush forget
    Those other two, for never yet
    Has lover lived but longed to wive
    Like them that are no more alive.
  76.  p.24

    4. The Green Helmet 1904–1911

    25. The mask

  77. 'Put off that mask of burning gold
    With emerald eyes.'
    'O no, my dear, you make so bold
    To find if hearts be wild and wise,
    And yet not cold.'
  78. 'I would but find what's there to find,
    Love or deceit.'
    'It was the mask engaged your mind,
    And after set your heart to beat,
    Not what's behind.'
  79. 'But lest you are my enemy,
    I must enquire.'
    'O no, my dear, let all that be,
    What matter, so there is but fire
    In you, in me?'
  80. 26. His dream

  81. I swayed upon the gaudy stern
    The butt end of a steering oar,
    And everywhere that I could turn
    Men ran upon the shore.
  82.  p.25
  83. 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?'
  84. And fishes bubbling to the brim
    Cried out upon that thing beneath,
    It had such dignity of limb,
    By the sweet name of Death.
  85. 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,
  86. Crying amid the glittering sea,
    Naming it with ecstatic breath,
    Because it had such dignity
    By the sweet name of Death.
  87. 27. A woman Homer sung

  88. If any man drew near
    When I was young,
    I thought, 'He holds her dear,'
    And shook with hate and fear.
    But oh, 't was bitter wrong
    If he could pass her by
    With an indifferent eye.
  89.  p.26
  90. Whereon I wrote and wrought,
    And now, being gray,
    I dream that I have brought
    To such a pitch my thought
    That coming time can say,
    'He shadowed in a glass
    What thing her body was.'
  91. For she had fiery blood
    When I was young,
    And trod so sweetly proud
    As 't were upon a cloud,
    A woman Homer sung,
    That life and letters seem
    But an heroic dream.
  92. 28. Peace

  93. Ah, but Time has touched a form
    That could show what Homer's age
    Bred to be a hero's wage.
    'Were not all her life but storm,
    Would not painters paint a form
    Of such noble lines' I said.
    'Such a delicate high head,
    So much sternness and such charm,
    Till they had changed us to like strength?'
    Ah, but peace that comes at length,
    Came when Time had touched her form.
  94.  p.27

    29. The consolation

  95. I had this thought awhile ago,
    'My darling cannot understand
    What I have done, or what would do
    In this blind bitter land.'
  96. And I grew weary of the sun
    Until my thoughts cleared up again,
    Remembering that the best I have done
    Was done to make it plain;
  97. That every year I have cried, 'At length
    My darling understands it all,
    Because I have come into my strength,
    And words obey my call.'
  98. That had she done so who can say
    What would have shaken from the sieve?
    I might have thrown poor words away
    And been content to live.
  99. 30. No second Troy

  100. Why should I blame her that she filled my days
    With misery, or that she would of late
    Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
    Or hurled the little streets upon the great, p.28
    Had they but courage equal to desire?
    What could have made her peaceful with a mind
    That nobleness made simple as a fire,
    With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
    That is not natural in an age like this,
    Being high and solitary and most stern?
    Why, what could she have done being what she is?
    Was there another Troy for her to burn?
  101. 31. Reconciliation

  102. Some may have blamed you that you took away
    The verses that could move them on the day
    When, the ears being deafened, the sight of the eyes blind
    With lightning you went from me, and I could find
    Nothing to make a song about but kings,
    Helmets, and swords, and half-forgotten things
    That were like memories of you—but now
    We'll out, for the world lives as long ago;
    And while we're in our laughing, weeping fit,
    Hurl helmets, crowns, and swords into the pit.
    But, dear, cling close to me; since you were gone,
    My barren thoughts have chilled me to the bone.
  103. 32. King and No King

  104. 'Would it were anything but merely voice !'
    The No King cried who after that was King,
    Because he had not heard of anything
    That balanced with a word is more than noise; p.29
    Yet Old Romance being kind, let him prevail
    Somewhere or somehow that I have forgot,
    Though he'd but cannon—Whereas we that had thought
    To have lit upon as clean and sweet a tale
    Have been defeated by that pledge you gave
    In momentary anger long ago;
    And I that have not your faith, how shall I know
    That in the blinding light beyond the grave
    We'll find so good a thing as that we have lost?
    The hourly kindness, the day's common speech,
    The habitual content of each with each
    When neither soul nor body has been crossed.
  105. 33. Against unworthy praise

  106. O heart, be at peace, because
    Nor knave nor dolt can break
    What 's not for their applause,
    Being for a woman's sake.
    Enough if the work has seemed,
    So did she your strength renew,
    A dream that a lion had dreamed
    Till the wilderness cried aloud,
    A secret between you two,
    Between the proud and the proud.
  107. What, still you would have their praise!
    But here's a haughtier text, p.30
    The labyrinth of her days
    That her own strangeness perplexed;
    And how what her dreaming gave
    Earned slander, ingratitude,
    From self-same dolt and knave;
    Aye, and worse wrong than these.
    Yet she, singing upon her road,
    Half lion, half child, is at peace.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): A Selection from the Love Poetry of William Butler Yeats

Author: William Butler Yeats

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber and Sara Sponholz

Proof corrections by: Beatrix Färber and Sara Sponholz

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 6630 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2011

Date: 2014

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E900041-001

Availability: The works by W. B. Yeats are in the public domain. This electronic text is available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of private or academic research and teaching.

Source description

Literature (a small selection)

  1. For text of Irish poem of Baile and Ailinn, see O'Curry, Lectures on the MS materials of Ancient Irish History (Dublin 1878), 464–475 (poemn in Book of Leinster).
  2. W. B. Yeats, The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats, consisting of Reveries over childhood and youth, The trembling of the veil, and Dramatis personae (New York 1938).
  3. Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks. Corrected edition with a new preface (Oxford 1979). [First published New York 1948; reprinted London 1961.]
  4. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspach, The variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats (New York: Macmillan 1957).
  5. W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (New York: Macmillan 1961).
  6. W. B. Yeats, Explorations: selected by Mrs W. B.Yeats (London/New York: Macmillan 1962).
  7. Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats (New York 1964).
  8. Norman Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats (Stanford 1984).
  9. Helen Vendler, Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form (Oxford/New York 2007).
  10. A general bibliography is available online at the official web site of the Nobel Prize. See: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1923/yeats-bibl.html

The edition used in the digital edition

Yeats, William Butler (1913). A Selection from the Love Poetry of William Butler Yeats‍. 1st ed. Churchtown, Dundrum: The Cuala Press, 30 pp.

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  title 	 = {A Selection from the Love Poetry of William Butler Yeats},
  author 	 = {William Butler Yeats},
  edition 	 = {1},
  pages 	 = {30 pp.},
  address 	 = {Churchtown, Dundrum},
  date 	 = {1913},
  publisher 	 = {The Cuala Press}


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The whole selection.

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Profile description

Creation: By William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). 1890–1911

Language usage

  • The poems are in English. (en)

Keywords: literary; poetry; W. B. Yeats; 19c; 20c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-02-27: Footnote added to 'Baile and Ailinn', items added to bibliographical details; file re-parsed; new SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2011-08-10: File proofed (2), additions to encoding made; header completed; file re-parsed; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2011-08-05: File parsed. (ed. Sara Sponholz)
  4. 2011-08-05: File proofed (1); structural mark-up inserted. (ed. Sara Sponholz)
  5. 2011-08-02: Header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2011-03-15: Text captured by scanning. (ed. Beatrix Färber)


Here ends A Selection from the Love Poetry of William Butler Yeats 1890–1911. Printed and published by Elizabeth C. Yeats at The Cuala Press, Churchtown, Dundrum, in the County of Dublin, Ireland. Finished in the last week of May, in the year nineteen hundred and thirteen.

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  1. Yeats wrote a footnote to the poem (reproduced according to Jeffares p. 530): “It is better, I think, to explain at once some of the allusions to mythological people and things, instead of breaking up the reader's attention with a series of foot-notes. What the 'long wars for the White Horn and the Brown Bull' were and who 'Deirdre the harper's daughter' was, and why Cuchullain was called 'the hound or Ulad', I shall not explain. The reader will find all that he need about them, and about the story of Baile and Aillinn itself, in Lady Gregory's 'Cuchullain of Muirthemne', the most important book that has come out of Ireland in my time. 'The Great Plain' is the Land of the Dead and of the Happy; it is called also 'The Land of the Living Heart', and many beautiful names besides. And Findrias and Falias and Gorias and Murias were the four my sterious cities whence the Tuatha De Danaan, the divine race, came to Ireland, cities of learning out of sight of the world, where they found their four talismans, the spear, the stone, the cauldron, and the sword. The birds that flutter over the head of Aengus are four birds that he made out of his kisses; and when Baile and Aillinn take the shape of swans linked with a golden chain, they take the shape that other enchanted lovers took before them in the old stories. Midhir was a king of the Sidhe, or people of faery, and Etain his wife, when driven away by a jealous woman, took refuge once upon a time with Aengus in a house of glass, and there I have imagined her weaving harp-strings out of Aengus' hair. I have brought the harp-strings into 'The Shadowy Waters', where I interpret the myth in my own way”. The poem was finished on 11 August 1901 (Jeffares, Commentary, p. 530) and first published in the Monthly Review, July 1902. 🢀


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