Poem – Upon a Dying Lady

Her Courtesy

WITH the old kindness, the old distinguished grace,
She lies, her lovely piteous head amid dull red hair
propped upon pillows, rouge on the pallor of her face.
She would not have us sad because she is lying there,
And when she meets our gaze her eyes are laughter-lit,
Her speech a wicked tale that we may vie with her,
Matching our broken-hearted wit against her wit,
Thinking of saints and of petronius Arbiter.

Curtain Artist bring her Dolls and Drawings
Bring where our Beauty lies
A new modelled doll, or drawing,
With a friend’s or an enemy’s
Features, or maybe showing
Her features when a tress
Of dull red hair was flowing
Over some silken dress
Cut in the Turkish fashion,
Or, it may be, like a boy’s.
We have given the world our passion,
We have naught for death but toys.

She turns the Dolls’ Faces to the Wall
Because to-day is some religious festival
They had a priest say Mass, and even the Japanese,
Heel up and weight on toe, must face the wall
— Pedant in passion, learned in old courtesies,
Vehement and witty she had seemed — ; the Venetian lady
Who had seemed to glide to some intrigue in her red shoes,
Her domino, her panniered skirt copied from Longhi;
The meditative critic; all are on their toes,
Even our Beauty with her Turkish trousers on.
Because the priest must have like every dog his day
Or keep us all awake with baying at the moon,
We and our dolls being but the world were best away.

The End of Day
She is playing like a child
And penance is the play,
Fantastical and wild
Because the end of day
Shows her that some one soon
Will come from the house, and say —
Though play is but half done —
‘Come in and leave the play.’

Her Race
She has not grown uncivil
As narrow natures would
And called the pleasures evil
Happier days thought good;
She knows herself a woman,
No red and white of a face,
Or rank, raised from a common
Vnreckonable race;
And how should her heart fail her
Or sickness break her will
With her dead brother’s valour
For an example still?

Her Courage
When her soul flies to the predestined dancing-place
(I have no speech but symbol, the pagan speech I made
Amid the dreams of youth) let her come face to face,
Amid that first astonishment, with Grania’s shade,
All but the terrors of the woodland flight forgot
That made her Diatmuid dear, and some old cardinal
Pacing with half-closed eyelids in a sunny spot
Who had murmured of Giorgione at his latest breath —
Aye, and Achilles, Timor, Babar, Barhaim, all
Who have lived in joy and laughed into the face of Death.

Her Friends bring her a Christmas Tree
pardon, great enemy,
Without an angry thought
We’ve carried in our tree,
And here and there have bought
Till all the boughs are gay,
And she may look from the bed
On pretty things that may
please a fantastic head.
Give her a little grace,
What if a laughing eye
Have looked into your face?
It is about to die.

Poem – The Indian to His Love

THE island dreams under the dawn
And great boughs drop tranquillity;
The peahens dance on a smooth lawn,
A parrot sways upon a tree,
Raging at his own image in the enamelled sea.
Here we will moor our lonely ship
And wander ever with woven hands,
Murmuring softly lip to lip,
Along the grass, along the sands,
Murmuring how far away are the unquiet lands:
How we alone of mortals are
Hid under quiet boughs apart,
While our love grows an Indian star,
A meteor of the burning heart,
One with the tide that gleams, the wings that gleam
and dart,
The heavy boughs, the burnished dove
That moans and sighs a hundred days:
How when we die our shades will rove,
When eve has hushed the feathered ways,
With vapoury footsole by the water’s drowsy blaze.

Poem – Under the Round Tower

ALTHOUGH I’d lie lapped up in linen
A deal I’d sweat and little earn
If I should live as live the neighbours,’
Cried the beggar, Billy Byrne;
‘Stretch bones till the daylight come
On great-grandfather’s battered tomb.’
Upon a grey old battered tombstone
In Glendalough beside the stream
Where the O’Byrnes and Byrnes are buried,
He stretched his bones and fell in a dream
Of sun and moon that a good hour
Bellowed and pranced in the round tower;
Of golden king and Silver lady,
Bellowing up and bellowing round,
Till toes mastered a sweet measure,
Mouth mastered a sweet sound,
Prancing round and prancing up
Until they pranced upon the top.
That golden king and that wild lady
Sang till stars began to fade,
Hands gripped in hands, toes close together,
Hair spread on the wind they made;
That lady and that golden king
Could like a brace of blackbirds sing.
‘It’s certain that my luck is broken,’
That rambling jailbird Billy said;
‘Before nightfall I’ll pick a pocket
And snug it in a feather bed.
I cannot find the peace of home
On great-grandfather’s battered tomb.’

Poem – The Seven Sages

The First. My great-grandfather spoke to Edmund Burke
In Grattan’s house.
The Second. My great-grandfather shared
A pot-house bench with Oliver Goldsmith once.
The Third. My great-grandfather’s father talked of music,
Drank tar-water with the Bishop of Cloyne.
The Fourth. But mine saw Stella once.
The Fifth. Whence came our thought?
The Sixth. From four great minds that hated Whiggery.
The Fifth. Burke was a Whig.
The Sixth. Whether they knew or not,
Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne
All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkard’s eye.
The Seventh. All’s Whiggery now,
But we old men are massed against the world.
The First. American colonies, Ireland, France and India
Harried, and Burke’s great melody against it.
The Second. Oliver Goldsmith sang what he had seen,
Roads full of beggars, cattle in the fields,
But never saw the trefoil stained with blood,
The avenging leaf those fields raised up against it.
The Fourth. The tomb of Swift wears it away.
The Third. A voice
Soft as the rustle of a reed from Cloyne
That gathers volume; now a thunder-clap.
The Sixtb. What schooling had these four?
The Seventh. They walked the roads
Mimicking what they heard, as children mimic;
They understood that wisdom comes of beggary.

Poem – The Three Monuments

THEY hold their public meetings where
Our most renowned patriots stand,
One among the birds of the air,
A stumpier on either hand;
And all the popular statesmen say
That purity built up the State
And after kept it from decay;
And let all base ambition be,
For intellect would make us proud
And pride bring in impurity:
The three old rascals laugh aloud.

Poem – A Prayer for Old Age

GOD guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?
I pray — for word is out
And prayer comes round again —
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

Poem – On Woman

MAY God be praised for woman
That gives up all her mind,
A man may find in no man
A friendship of her kind
That covers all he has brought
As with her flesh and bone,
Nor quarrels with a thought
Because it is not her own.
Though pedantry denies,
It’s plain the Bible means
That Solomon grew wise
While talking with his queens.
Yet never could, although
They say he counted grass,
Count all the praises due
When Sheba was his lass,
When she the iron wrought, or
When from the smithy fire
It shuddered in the water:
Harshness of their desire
That made them stretch and yawn,
pleasure that comes with sleep,
Shudder that made them one.
What else He give or keep
God grant me — no, not here,
For I am not so bold
To hope a thing so dear
Now I am growing old,
But when, if the tale’s true,
The Pestle of the moon
That pounds up all anew
Brings me to birth again —
To find what once I had
And know what once I have known,
Until I am driven mad,
Sleep driven from my bed.
By tenderness and care.
pity, an aching head,
Gnashing of teeth, despair;
And all because of some one
perverse creature of chance,
And live like Solomon
That Sheba led a dance.

Poem – Demon and Beast

FOR certain minutes at the least
That crafty demon and that loud beast
That plague me day and night
Ran out of my sight;
Though I had long perned in the gyre,
Between my hatred and desire.
I saw my freedom won
And all laugh in the sun.
The glittering eyes in a death’s head
Of old Luke Wadding’s portrait said
Welcome, and the Ormondes all
Nodded upon the wall,
And even Strafford smiled as though
It made him happier to know
I understood his plan.
Now that the loud beast ran
There was no portrait in the Gallery
But beckoned to sweet company,
For all men’s thoughts grew clear
Being dear as mine are dear.
But soon a tear-drop started up,
For aimless joy had made me stop
Beside the little lake
To watch a white gull take
A bit of bread thrown up into the air;
Now gyring down and perning there
He splashed where an absurd
Portly green-pated bird
Shook off the water from his back;
Being no more demoniac
A stupid happy creature
Could rouse my whole nature.
Yet I am certain as can be
That every natural victory
Belongs to beast or demon,
That never yet had freeman
Right mastery of natural things,
And that mere growing old, that brings
Chilled blood, this sweetness brought;
Yet have no dearer thought
Than that I may find out a way
To make it linger half a day.
O what a sweetness strayed
Through barren Thebaid,
Or by the Mareotic sea
When that exultant Anthony
And twice a thousand more
Starved upon the shore
And withered to a bag of bones!
What had the Caesars but their thrones?

Her Dream – William Butler Yeats

I dreamed as in my bed I lay, 

All night’s fathomless wisdom come, 

That I had shorn my locks away 

And laid them on Love’s lettered tomb: 

But something bore them out of sight 

In a great tumult of the air, 

And after nailed upon the night 

Berenice’s burning hair.

When You Are Old – William Butler Yeats

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.

Summer and Spring – William Butler Yeats

A Man Young And Old: Viii. 
We sat under an old thorn-tree 

And talked away the night, 

Told all that had been said or done 

Since first we saw the light, 

And when we talked of growing up 

Knew that we’d halved a soul 

And fell the one in t’other’s arms 

That we might make it whole; 

Then peter had a murdering look, 

For it seemed that he and she 

Had spoken of their childish days 

Under that very tree. 

O what a bursting out there was, 

And what a blossoming, 

When we had all the summer-time 

And she had all the spring!

The Rose of Peace – William Butler Yeats

IF Michael, leader of God’s host 

When Heaven and Hell are met, 

Looked down on you from Heaven’s door-post 

He would his deeds forget. 

Brooding no more upon God’s wars 

In his divine homestead, 

He would go weave out of the stars 

A chaplet for your head. 

And all folk seeing him bow down, 

And white stars tell your praise, 

Would come at last to God’s great town, 

Led on by gentle ways; 

And God would bid His warfare cease, 

Saying all things were well; 

And softly make a rosy peace, 

A peace of Heaven with Hell.

The Man And The Echo – William Butler Yeats


IN a cleft that’s christened Alt 

Under broken stone I halt 

At the bottom of a pit 

That broad noon has never lit, 

And shout a secret to the stone. 

All that I have said and done, 

Now that I am old and ill, 

Turns into a question till 

I lie awake night after night 

And never get the answers right. 

Did that play of mine send out 

Certain men the English shot? 

Did words of mine put too great strain 

On that woman’s reeling brain? 

Could my spoken words have checked 

That whereby a house lay wrecked? 

And all seems evil until I 

Sleepless would lie down and die. 


Lie down and die. 


That were to shirk 

The spiritual intellect’s great work, 

And shirk it in vain. There is no release 

In a bodkin or disease, 

Nor can there be work so great 

As that which cleans man’s dirty slate. 

While man can still his body keep 

Wine or love drug him to sleep, 

Waking he thanks the Lord that he 

Has body and its stupidity, 

But body gone he sleeps no more, 

And till his intellect grows sure 

That all’s arranged in one clear view, 

pursues the thoughts that I pursue, 

Then stands in judgment on his soul, 

And, all work done, dismisses all 

Out of intellect and sight 

And sinks at last into the night. 


Into the night. 


O Rocky Voice, 

Shall we in that great night rejoice? 

What do we know but that we face 

One another in this place? 

But hush, for I have lost the theme, 

Its joy or night-seem but a dream; 

Up there some hawk or owl has struck, 

Dropping out of sky or rock, 

A stricken rabbit is crying out, 

And its cry distracts my thought.

The Heart Of The Woman – William Butler Yeats

O WHAT to me the little room 

That was brimmed up with prayer and rest; 

He bade me out into the gloom, 

And my breast lies upon his breast. 

O what to me my mother’s care, 

The house where I was safe and warm; 

The shadowy blossom of my hair 

Will hide us from the bitter storm. 

O hiding hair and dewy eyes, 

I am no more with life and death, 

My heart upon his warm heart lies, 

My breath is mixed into his breath.

The Indian To His Love – William Butler Yeats

THE island dreams under the dawn 

And great boughs drop tranquillity; 

The peahens dance on a smooth lawn, 

A parrot sways upon a tree, 

Raging at his own image in the enamelled sea. 

Here we will moor our lonely ship 

And wander ever with woven hands, 

Murmuring softly lip to lip, 

Along the grass, along the sands, 

Murmuring how far away are the unquiet lands: 

How we alone of mortals are 

Hid under quiet boughs apart, 

While our love grows an Indian star, 

A meteor of the burning heart, 

One with the tide that gleams, the wings that gleam 

and dart, 

The heavy boughs, the burnished dove 

That moans and sighs a hundred days: 

How when we die our shades will rove, 

When eve has hushed the feathered ways, 

With vapoury footsole by the water’s drowsy blaze.

Poem – A Dialogue Of Self And Soul – William Butler Yeats

i{My Soul} I summon to the winding ancient stair; 

Set all your mind upon the steep ascent, 

Upon the broken, crumbling battlement, 

Upon the breathless starlit air, 

‘Upon the star that marks the hidden pole; 

Fix every wandering thought upon 

That quarter where all thought is done: 

Who can distinguish darkness from the soul 

i{My Self}. The consecretes blade upon my knees 

Is Sato’s ancient blade, still as it was, 

Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass 

Unspotted by the centuries; 

That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn 

From some court-lady’s dress and round 

The wodden scabbard bound and wound 

Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn 

i{My Soul.} Why should the imagination of a man 

Long past his prime remember things that are 

Emblematical of love and war? 

Think of ancestral night that can, 

If but imagination scorn the earth 

And interllect is wandering 

To this and that and t’other thing, 

Deliver from the crime of death and birth. 

i{My self.} Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it 

Five hundred years ago, about it lie 

Flowers from I know not what embroidery — 

Heart’s purple — and all these I set 

For emblems of the day against the tower 

Emblematical of the night, 

And claim as by a soldier’s right 

A charter to commit the crime once more. 

i{My Soul.} Such fullness in that quarter overflows 

And falls into the basin of the mind 

That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind, 

For intellect no longer knows 

i{Is} from the i{Ought,} or i{knower} from the i{Known — } 

That is to say, ascends to Heaven; 

Only the dead can be forgiven; 

But when I think of that my tongue’s a stone. 

i{My Self.} A living man is blind and drinks his drop. 

What matter if the ditches are impure? 

What matter if I live it all once more? 

Endure that toil of growing up; 

The ignominy of boyhood; the distress 

Of boyhood changing into man; 

The unfinished man and his pain 

Brought face to face with his own clumsiness; 

The finished man among his enemies? — 

How in the name of Heaven can he escape 

That defiling and disfigured shape 

The mirror of malicious eyes 

Casts upon his eyes until at last 

He thinks that shape must be his shape? 

And what’s the good of an escape 

If honour find him in the wintry blast? 

I am content to live it all again 

And yet again, if it be life to pitch 

Into the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch, 

A blind man battering blind men; 

Or into that most fecund ditch of all, 

The folly that man does 

Or must suffer, if he woos 

A proud woman not kindred of his soul. 

I am content to follow to its source 

Every event in action or in thought; 

Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot! 

When such as I cast out remorse 

So great a sweetness flows into the breast 

We must laugh and we must sing, 

We are blest by everything, 

Everything we look upon is blest.

Poem – A Man Young And Old – William Butler Yeats

First Love 
THOUGH nurtured like the sailing moon 

In beauty’s murderous brood, 

She walked awhile and blushed awhile 

And on my pathway stood 

Until I thought her body bore 

A heart of flesh and blood. 

But since I laid a hand thereon 

And found a heart of stone 

I have attempted many things 

And not a thing is done, 

For every hand is lunatic 

That travels on the moon. 

She smiled and that transfigured me 

And left me but a lout, 

Maundering here, and maundering there, 

Emptier of thought 

Than the heavenly circuit of its stars 

When the moon sails out. 

Human Dignity 

Like the moon her kindness is, 

If kindness I may call 

What has no comprehension in’t, 

But is the same for all 

As though my sorrow were a scene 

Upon a painted wall. 

So like a bit of stone I lie 

Under a broken tree. 

I could recover if I shrieked 

My heart’s agony 

To passing bird, but I am dumb 

From human dignity. 

The Mermaid 

A mermaid found a swimming lad, 

Picked him for her own, 

Pressed her body to his body, 

Laughed; and plunging down 

Forgot in cruel happiness 

That even lovers drown. 

The Death of the Hare 

I have pointed out the yelling pack, 

The hare leap to the wood, 

And when I pass a compliment 

Rejoice as lover should 

At the drooping of an eye, 

At the mantling of the blood. 

Then’ suddenly my heart is wrung 

By her distracted air 

And I remember wildness lost 

And after, swept from there, 

Am set down standing in the wood 

At the death of the hare. 

The Empty Cup 

A crazy man that found a cup, 

When all but dead of thirst, 

Hardly dared to wet his mouth 

Imagining, moon-accursed, 

That another mouthful 

And his beating heart would burst. 

October last I found it too 

But found it dry as bone, 

And for that reason am I crazed 

And my sleep is gone. 

His Memories 

We should be hidden from their eyes, 

Being but holy shows 

And bodies broken like a thorn 

Whereon the bleak north blows, 

To think of buried Hector 

And that none living knows. 

The women take so little stock 

In what I do or say 

They’d sooner leave their cosseting 

To hear a jackass bray; 

My arms are like the twisted thorn 

And yet there beauty lay; 

The first of all the tribe lay there 

And did such pleasure take — 

She who had brought great Hector down 

And put all Troy to wreck — 

That she cried into this ear, 

‘Strike me if I shriek.’ 

The Friends of his Youth 

Laughter not time destroyed my voice 

And put that crack in it, 

And when the moon’s pot-bellied 

I get a laughing fit, 

For that old Madge comes down the lane, 

A stone upon her breast, 

And a cloak wrapped about the stone, 

And she can get no rest 

With singing hush and hush-a-bye; 

She that has been wild 

And barren as a breaking wave 

Thinks that the stone’s a child. 

And Peter that had great affairs 

And was a pushing man 

Shrieks, ‘I am King of the Peacocks,’ 

And perches on a stone; 

And then I laugh till tears run down 

And the heart thumps at my side, 

Remembering that her shriek was love 

And that he shrieks from pride. 

Summer and Spring 

We sat under an old thorn-tree 

And talked away the night, 

Told all that had been said or done 

Since first we saw the light, 

And when we talked of growing up 

Knew that we’d halved a soul 

And fell the one in t’other’s arms 

That we might make it whole; 

Then peter had a murdering look, 

For it seemed that he and she 

Had spoken of their childish days 

Under that very tree. 

O what a bursting out there was, 

And what a blossoming, 

When we had all the summer-time 

And she had all the spring! 

The Secrets of the Old 

I have old women’s sectets now 

That had those of the young; 

Madge tells me what I dared not think 

When my blood was strong, 

And what had drowned a lover once 

Sounds like an old song. 

Though Margery is stricken dumb 

If thrown in Madge’s way, 

We three make up a solitude; 

For none alive to-day 

Can know the stories that we know 

Or say the things we say: 

How such a man pleased women most 

Of all that are gone, 

How such a pair loved many years 

And such a pair but one, 

Stories of the bed of straw 

Or the bed of down. 

His Wildness 

O bid me mount and sail up there 

Amid the cloudy wrack, 

For peg and Meg and Paris’ love 

That had so straight a back, 

Are gone away, and some that stay 

Have changed their silk for sack. 

Were I but there and none to hear 

I’d have a peacock cry, 

For that is natural to a man 

That lives in memory, 

Being all alone I’d nurse a stone 

And sing it lullaby. 

From ‘Oedipus at Colonus’ 

Endure what life God gives and ask no longer span; 

Cease to remember the delights of youth, travel-wearied aged man; 

Delight becomes death-longing if all longing else be vain. 

Even from that delight memory treasures so, 

Death, despair, division of families, all entanglements of mankind grow, 

As that old wandering beggar and these God-hated children know. 

In the long echoing street the laughing dancers throng, 

The bride is catried to the bridegroom’s chamber 

through torchlight and tumultuous song; 

I celebrate the silent kiss that ends short life or long. 

Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say; 

Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have 

looked into the eye of day; 

The second best’s a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.

Poem – A Poet To His Beloved – William Butler Yeats

I BRING you with reverent hands 

The books of my numberless dreams, 

White woman that passion has worn 

As the tide wears the dove-grey 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.

Poem – A Dream Of Death –  William Butler Yeats

I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place 

Near no accustomed hand, 

And they had nailed the boards above her face, 

The peasants of that land, 

Wondering to lay her in that solitude, 

And raised above her mound 

A cross they had made out of two bits of wood, 

And planted cypress round; 

And left her to the indifferent stars above 

Until I carved these words: 

i{She was more beautiful than thy first love,} 

i{But now lies under boards.}

Poem – A Bronze Head – William Butler Yeats

HERE at right of the entrance this bronze head, 

Human, superhuman, a bird’s round eye, 

Everything else withered and mummy-dead. 

What great tomb-haunter sweeps the distant sky 

(Something may linger there though all else die;) 

And finds there nothing to make its tetror less 

i{Hysterica passio} of its own emptiness? 
No dark tomb-haunter once; her form all full 

As though with magnanimity of light, 

Yet a most gentle woman; who can tell 

Which of her forms has shown her substance right? 

Or maybe substance can be composite, 

profound McTaggart thought so, and in a breath 

A mouthful held the extreme of life and death. 
But even at the starting-post, all sleek and new, 

I saw the wildness in her and I thought 

A vision of terror that it must live through 

Had shattered her soul. Propinquity had brought 

Imagiation to that pitch where it casts out 

All that is not itself: I had grown wild 

And wandered murmuring everywhere, ‘My child, my 

child! ‘ 
Or else I thought her supernatural; 

As though a sterner eye looked through her eye 

On this foul world in its decline and fall; 

On gangling stocks grown great, great stocks run dry, 

Ancestral pearls all pitched into a sty, 

Heroic reverie mocked by clown and knave, 

And wondered what was left for massacre to save.