Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Butler Yeats

Irish Poet, Playwright

"In dreams begins responsibility."

"The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time."

"A pity beyond all telling is hid in the heart of love."

"All empty souls tend to extreme opinion. It is only in those who have built up a rich world of memories and habits of thought that extreme opinions affront the sense of probability. Propositions, for instance, which set all the truth upon one side can only enter rich minds to dislocate and strain, if they can enter at all, and sooner or later the mind expels them by instinct."

"Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of the fire."

"I have certainly known more men destroyed by the desire to have a wife and child and to keep them in comfort than I have seen destroyed by drink and harlots."

"No art can conquer the people alone - the people are conquered by an ideal of life upheld by authority."

"Life is a long preparation for something that never happens."

"Land of Heart's Desire, where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood, but joy is wisdom, Time an endless song."

"The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, and if it take the second must refuse a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark."

"The light of lights looks always on the motive, not the deed, the shadow of shadows on the deed alone."

"The tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the soul."

"Only that which does not teach, which does not cry out, which does not condescend, which does not explain, is irresistible."

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

"Ecstasy is from the contemplation of things vaster than the individual and imperfectly seen perhaps, by all those that still survive."

"Many times man lives and dies between his two eternities."

"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing nor that, but simply growth."

"No human soul is like any other human soul, and therefore the love of God for any human soul is infinite, for no other soul can satisfy the same need in God."

"To seek God too soon is not less sinful than to seek God too late; we must love, man, woman or child, we must exhaust ambition, intellect, desire, dedicating all things as they pass, or we come to God with empty hands."

"What can be explained is not poetry."

"Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people."

"A bloody and a sudden end, gunshot or a noose, for Death who takes what man would keep, leaves what man would lose."

"A climbing moon upon an empty sky."

"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."

"A lonely impulse of delight."

"A man awaits his end."

"A daughter of a King of Ireland, heard a voice singing on a May Eve like this, and followed half awake and half asleep, until she came into the Land of Faery, where nobody gets old and godly and grave, where nobody gets old and crafty and wise, where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue. And she is still there, busied with a dance deep in the dewy shadow of a wood, or where stars walk upon a mountain-top."

"A couple of hours after Sunset Michael Robartes returned and told me that I would have to learn the steps of an exceedingly antique dance, because before my initiation could be perfected I had to join three times in a magical dance, for rhythm was the wheel of Eternity, on which alone the transient and accidental could be broken, and the spirit set free."

"A Deep Sworn Vow - Others because you did not keep that deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine; yet always when I look death in the face, when I clamber to the heights of sleep, or when I grow excited with wine, suddenly I meet your face."

"A king is but a foolish laborer."

"A Druid land, a Druid tune!"

"A Drinking Song Wine comes in at the mouth And love comes in at the eye; That?s all we shall know for truth Before we grow old and die. I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and I sigh."

"A girl arose that had red mournful lips."

"A rapturous music, till the morning break."

"A tattered coat upon a stick."

"A mermaid found a swimming lad, picked him up for her own, pressed her body to his body, laughed; and plunging down forgot in cruel happiness that even lovers drown."

"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."

"A man came slowly from the setting sun."

"A waste of breath the years behind."

"A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains all that man is, all mere complexities, the fury and the mire of human veins."

"A rabbit old and lame limped down the path."

"A thought of that late death took all my heart for speech."

"Accursed who brings to light of day the writings I have cast away."

"After twenty centuries of stony sleep, what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

"All art is, indeed, a monotony in external things for the sake of an interior variety, a sacrifice of gross effects to subtle effects, an asceticism of the imagination."

"Ah, that Time could touch a form that could show what Homer's age bred to be a hero's wage. 'Were not all her life but a storm, would not painters pain a form of such noble lines,' I said, 'Such a delicate high head, all that sternness amid charm, all that sweetness amid strength? Ah, but peace that comes at length, came when Time had touched her form."

"All changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born."

"All art that is not mere storytelling, or mere portraiture, is symbolic, and has the purpose of those symbolic talismans which medieval magicians made with complex colors and forms, and bade their patients ponder over daily, and guard with holy secrecy; for it entangles, in complex colors and forms, a part of the Divine Essence."

"Ah, you may tell the girls that they must now get their turn. My punishment was to last till I was thought worthy of a reward for the way I done my duty. You'll see me no more."

"All hatred driven hence, the soul recovers radical innocence and learns at last that it is self-delighting, self-appeasing, self-affrighting, and that its own sweet will is heaven?s will; she can, though every face should scowl and every windy quarter howl or every bellows burst, be happy still."