W.B. Yeats and His Famous Poems - William Butler Yeats was an instrumental part of the “Irish Literary Revival” that redefined Irish writing, and it is impossible to imagine 20th-century Irish literature without him. He came to prominence during a tumultuous period in his country’s history, and the idea of an independent Irish identity was crucial to Yeats’s work as a poet. In addition to his extensive and varied volumes of poetry, Yeats also wrote for the theater. He helped form a theatrical collective that led to the founding of the legendary Abbey Theatre, whose mission was to refocus drama on the plays themselves. Throughout his long career, Yeats influenced countless generations of dramatists and poets, including American writer Ezra Pound.
- Early in his career, Yeats was heavily influenced by other poets such as William Blake and Percy Shelley. The latter’s Prometheus Unbound was among Yeats’s favorite works.
- In his youth, Yeats and some other poets formed the Rhymer’s Club. The group was an open forum for reading new works, and they eventually published several volumes of poetry.
- One of Yeats’s longest works is The Wanderings of Oisin, an epic poem based in Irish mythology that took two years to finish.
- Yeats’s A Vision was a collaborative work created with his wife Georgie. The writings are supposedly a result of decoded messages channeled from the spirit world.
- In 1923, Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for his poetry, helping draw international attention to the Irish literary boom.
The Second Coming
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;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at laSt,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I made my song a coat
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.
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.
A Drinking Song
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
With the pride of his eye?
The wind-beaten, stone-grey,
And desolate Three Rock
Would nourish his whim.
Amid wet rocks and heather,
His ghost will be gay
Adding feather to feather
For the pride of his eye.
The New Faces
If you, that have grown old, were the first dead,
Should hear my living feet, nor would I tread
Where we wrought that shall break the teeth of Time.
In the old rooms; night can outbalance day,
Our shadows rove the garden gravel still,
The living seem more shadowy than they.
To A Young Beauty
Dear fellow-artist, why so free
With every Jack and Jill?
Choose your companions from the best;
Who draws a bucket with the rest
Soon topples down the hill.
Be passionate, not bountiful
As common beauties may,
Who were not born to keep in trim
With old Ezekiel's cherubim
But those of Beauvarlet.
How hard a life her setvant lives,
Yet praise the winters gone:
There is not a fool can call me friend,
And I may dine at journey's end
With Landor and with Donne.
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
The Living Beauty
I bade, because the wick and oil are spent
My discontented heart to draw content
From beauty that is cast out of a mould
In bronze, or that in dazzling marble appears,
Appears, but when wc have gone is gone again,
Being more indifferent to our solitude
Than 'twere an apparition. O heart, we are old;
The living beauty is for younger men:
We cannot pay its rribute of wild tears.
Under The Moon
I have no happiness in dreaming of Brycelinde,
Where one found Lancelot crazed and hid him for a while;
Nor Uladh, 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.
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.
Of the hunter's moon, that hung between the night and the day,
To dream of women whose beauty was folded in dis may,
Even in an old story, is a burden not to be borne.