Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Butler Yeats

Irish Poet, Playwright

"I kiss you and kiss you, with arms around my own. Ah, how shall I miss you, when, dear, you have grown."

"I loved long and long, and grew to be out of fashion like an old song."

"I heard the old, old men say, 'Everything alters, and one by one we drop away.' They had hands like claws, and their knees were twisted like the old thorn-trees by the waters. I heard the old, old men say, 'all that's beautiful drifts away like the waters.'"

"I knew a phoenix in my youth, so let them have their day."

"I know that I shall meet my fate Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love; My country is Kiltartan Cross, My countrymen Kiltartan?s poor, No likely end could bring them loss Or leave them happier than before. Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds; I balanced all, brought all to mind, The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death."

"I know what wages beauty gives, how hard a life her servant 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."

"I made my song a coat covered with embroideries 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. Song, let them take it, for there's more enterprise in walking naked."

"I must be gone: there is a grave."

"I might have thrown poor words away."

"I must lie down where all the ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."

"I no longer went to church as a regular habit, but go I sometimes did, for one Sunday morning I saw these words painted on a board in the porch: 'The congregation are requested to kneel during prayers; the kneelers are afterwards to be hung upon pegs provided for the purpose."

"I only write it now because I have grown to believe that there is no dangerous idea, which does not become less dangerous when written out in sincere and careful English."

"I pray ? for word is out and prayer comes round again ? that I may seem, though I die old, a foolish, passionate man."

"I put you from your pain. I can no more."

"I only ask what way my journey lies."

"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."

"I sat, a solitary man, in a crowded London shop, an open book and empty cup on the marble table-top. While on the shop and street I gazed, my body of a sudden blazed; and twenty minutes more or less it seemed, so great my happiness, that I was blessed and could bless."

"I saw nothing and heard nothing; near dead I am with a fright I got and with the hardship of the goal. Once men fought with their desires and their fears, with all that they call their sins, unhelped, and their souls became hard and strong. When we have brought back the clean earth and destroyed the law and the church, all life will become like a flame of fire, like a burning eye... Oh, how to find words, for it all... all that is not life will pass away! No man can be alive, and what is paradise but fullness of life, if whatever he sets his hand to in the daylight cannot carry him from exaltation to exaltation, and if he does not rise into the frenzy of contemplation in the night silence. Events that are not begotten in joy are misbegotten and darken the world, and nothing is begotten in joy if the joy of a thousand years has not been crushed into a moment."

"I shall find the dark grow luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing bell."

"I see my life go drifting like a river From change to change; I have been many things - A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light Upon a sword, a fir tree on a hill, An old slave grinding at a heavy quern, A king sitting upon a chair of gold - And all these things were wonderful and great; But now I have grown nothing, knowing all. Ah! Druid, Druid, how great webs of sorrow Lay hidden in that small slate-colored thing!"

"I shall arise and go to Innisfree."

"I swayed upon the gaudy stern the butt-end of a steering-oar, and saw wherever I could turn a crowd upon a 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 after running at the brim cried out upon that thing beneath --It had such dignity of a limb--By the sweet name of Death. Though I'd my finger on my lip, what could I but take up the song? And running crowd and gaudy ship cried out the whole night long, crying amid the glittering sea, naming it with the ecstatic breath, because it had such dignity,"

"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."

"I think it better that in times like these a poet's mouth be silent, for in truth we have no gift to set a statesman right."

"I spit into the face of Time that has transfigured me."

"I think all happiness depends on the energy to assume the mask of some other life, on a re-birth as something not one's self."

"I Sing what was lost and dread what was won."

"I spit upon the dancers painted by Degas. I spit upon their short bodies, their stiff stays, their toes whereupon they spin like peg-tops, above all upon that chambermaid face. They might have looked timeless, Remeses the Great, but not the chambermaid, that old maid history. I spit! I spit! I spit!"

"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 color as apple blossom. This beauty's kinder, yet for a reason I could weep that the old is out of season."

"I was dancing with an immortal august woman, who had black lilies in her hair, and her dreamy gesture seemed laden with a wisdom more profound than the darkness that is between star and star, and with a love like the love that breathed upon the waters; and as we danced on and on, the incense drifted over us and round us, covering us away as in the heart of the world, and ages seemed to pass, and tempests to awake and perish in the folds of our robes and in her heavy hair. Suddenly I remembered that her eyelids had never quivered, and that her lilies had not dropped a black petal, or shaken from their places, and understood with a great horror that I danced with one who was more or less than human, and who was drinking up my soul as an ox drinks up a wayside pool; and I fell, and darkness passed over me."

"I walk in a battle fought over again."

"I went to blow the fire a-flame."

"I whispered, 'I am too young,' and then, 'I am old enough'; wherefore I threw a penny to find out if I might love."

"I think you can leave the arts, superior or inferior, to the conscience of mankind."

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee, and live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; there midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, and evening full of the linnet's wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; while I stand on the roadway or on the pavements gray, I hear it in the deep heart's core."

"I think that a fierce woman's better, a woman that breaks away when you have thought her won, for I'd be fed and hungry at one time."

"I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head cut and peeled a hazel wand and hooked a berry to a thread and when white moths were on the wing and moth-like stars were flickering out I dropped the berry in a stream, and caught a little silver trout..."

"I was shocked and astonished when a daring little girl -- a cousin I think -- having waited under a group of trees in the avenue, where she knew [my grandfather] would pass near four o'clock on the way to his dinner, said to him, 'If I were you and you were a little girl, I would give you a doll."

"I will find out where she has gone, and kiss her lips and take her hands; and walk among long dappled grass, and pluck till time and times are done the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun."

"I will rise now to go to the island of Innisfree."

"I would be -- for no knowledge is worth a straw -- Ignorant and wanton as the dawn."

"I would mold a world of fire and dew with no one bitter, grave, or over wise, and nothing marred or old to do you wrong."

"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."

"I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera."

"I would like to have great iron claws, and to put them about the pillars, and to pull and pull till everything fell into pieces. Jerome. I don't see what good that would do you. Paul Ruttledge. Oh, yes it would. When everything was pulled down we would have more room to get drunk in, to drink contentedly out of the cup of life, out of the drunken cup of life."

"I would spread the cloths under your feet."

"If a powerful and benevolent spirit has shaped the destiny of this world, we can better discover that destiny from the words that have gathered up the heart's desire of the world, than from historical records, or from speculation, wherein the heart withers."

"I write it out in a verse?MacDonagh and MacBride and Connolly and Pearse now and in time to be, wherever green is worn, are changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born."

"If a poet interprets a poem of his own he limits its suggestibility."

"I wish for you constantly for I want to talk about everybody and everything. I can't go up to a stranger and say 'your manners and looks have stirred me to this profound meditation.'"