CELT document E930001-098


William Butler Yeats

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  1. The unpurged images of day recede;
    The Emperor's drunken soldiery are abed;
    Night resonance recedes, night walkers' song
    After great cathedral gong;
    A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
    All that man is,
    All mere complexities,
    The fury and the mire of human veins.
  2. Before me floats an image, man or shade,
    Shade more than man, more image than a shade;
    For Hades' bobbin bound in mummy-cloth
    May unwind the winding path;
    A mouth that has no moisture and no breath
    Breathless mouths may summon;
    I hail the superhuman;
    I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.
  3. Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,
    More miracle than bird or handiwork,
    Planted on the starlit golden bough,
    Can like the cocks of Hades crow,
    Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
    In glory of changeless metal
    Common bird or petal
    And all complexities of mire or blood.
  4. At midnight on the Emperor's pavement flit
    Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,
    Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
    Where blood-begotten spirits come
    And all complexities of fury leave,
    Dying into a dance,
    An agony of trance,
    An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.
  5.  p.249
  6. Astraddle on the dolphin's mire and blood,
    Spirit after Spirit! The smithies break the flood.
    The golden smithies of the Emperor!
    Marbles of the dancing floor
    Break bitter furies of complexity,
    Those images that yet
    Fresh images beget,
    That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.

Document details

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Byzantium

Author: William Butler Yeats

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 1027 words

Publication statement

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

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

Date: 2014

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

CELT document ID: E930001-098

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.

Notes statement

The poem was written in September 1930, and first appeared in Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems. This information is taken from Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats, p. 352.

Source description


  1. W. B. Yeats, Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems (Dublin: Cuala Press 1932)
  2. W. B. Yeats, 'The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats', A new edition', edited by Richard J. Finneran, 1983, second edition 1991].

Literature (selection)

  1. 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).
  2. A. Norman Jeffares, 'The Byzantine Poems of W.B. Yeats', in Review of English Studies, vol. 22, no. 85 (1946) 44–52.
  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. Thomas L. Dume, 'Yeats' Golden Tree and Birds in the Byzantium Poems', in Modern Language Notes, 67.6 (June 1952) 404–407.
  5. David I. Masson, 'Word and Sound in Yeats' "Byzantium"', in ELH, 20.2 (June 1953) 136–160.
  6. Denis Davison, 'Words and Sopunds in Yeats's "Byzantium"', in Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, 7 (1955) 111–114.
  7. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspach, The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats (New York: Macmillan 1957).
  8. Curtis Bradford, 'Yeats's Byzantium Poems: A Study of Their Development', in Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 75.1 (March 1960) 110–125.
  9. W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (New York: Macmillan 1961).
  10. W. B. Yeats, Explorations: selected by Mrs W. B. Yeats (London/New York: Macmillan 1962).
  11. W. B. Yeats, 'Modern Ireland', in Massachusetts Review, 5.2 (Winter 1964) 256–268.
  12. Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats (New York 1964).
  13. Diana Arbin Ben-Merre, 'The Poet Laureate and the Golden Bird: A Note on Yeats' Byzantium Poems', in Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 5.1 (1979) 100–103.
  14. William Empson, 'Yeats and Byzantium', in Grand Street 1.4 (Summer 1982), 67–95.
  15. A. Norman Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats (Stanford 1984); esp. 352ndash;359.
  16. Helen Vendler, Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form (Oxford/New York 2007).
  17. A 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 (1991). ‘Byzantium’. In: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats‍. Ed. by Richard J. Finneran. London: Macmillan Press, pp. 248–249.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {William Butler Yeats},
  title 	 = {Byzantium},
  editor 	 = {Richard J. Finneran},
  booktitle 	 = {The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats},
  publisher 	 = {Macmillan Press},
  address 	 = { London},
  date 	 = {1991},
  pages 	 = {248–249}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The whole poem.

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Correction: The text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Hyphenation: The editorial practice of the hard-copy editor has been retained.

Segmentation: div0= the individual poem, stanzas are marked lg and numbered.

Interpretation: Names of persons (given names), and places are not tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles are not tagged.

Profile description

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

Date: September 1930

Language usage

  • The poem is in English. (en)

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

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-03-31: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-03-31: TEI header created with bibliographic detail; file proofed (1) and encoded for structure; file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 1996: Text captured (data capture Students at the CELT Project, UCC)

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