William Butler Yeats

Please note that I only include poems that I personally have transcribed from my personal library. 
Many copies of most poems that circulate on the internet are riddled with textual errors. 
I therefore choose not to copy them.

I have attempted to transcribe the contents of audio recordings of Yeats
as I have found them online. However, in these instances, the text on this page corresponds
only to my own listening and not to a secondary textual resource.

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Yeats Defends His Elocution.

I'm going to read my poems with great emphasis upon their rhythm, and that may seem strange if you are not used to it. I remember the great English poet William Morris coming in a rage out of some lecture hall, where somebody had recited a passage out of his Sigurd the Volsung.

"It gave me a devil of a lot of trouble," said Morris, "to get that thing into verse." 

It gave me a devil of a lot of trouble to get into verse the poems that I am going to read, and that is why I will not read them as if they were prose.

Yeats Defends His Elocution MP3
870 KB

¤ William Morris. [wĭl'yəm môr'ĭs.] (pr. n.) A British poet, painter, craftsman, and social reformer. His poems include the epic Sigurd the Volsung.

¤ Sigurd the Volsung. [sĭg'ərd thə vŏl'sōōng.] (pr. n.) William Morris's most ambitious poetic work. The epic spans four books, published in 1876, based on the prosaic Volsunga Saga. You may read an eText version of the poem here. Unfortunately, it has been truncated into prose at some points by its transcribers. The eText is available courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

The Song of the Happy Shepherd.

The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? — By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams: there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass —
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
No word of theirs — the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.
Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewarding in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth.

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad sinking through,
My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.

¤ Arcady. [är'kə-dē.] (pr. n.) Variant of Arcadia. The ideal of a land with outstanding natural beauty unspoiled by human civilization. In Greek mythology, Arcadia was the wooded home of Pan, the god of the forest. It is a paradise wherein supernatural entities such as dryads, nymphs, and other animistic spirits live.

¤ Chronos. [krō'nōs.] (pr. n.) In Greek mythology, Chronos was the embodiment of time. He is supposed to have emerged from primordial chaos, and he frequently appears as an elderly, gray-haired man. Alternative spellings of his name include: Khronos, Chronos, and Chronus (Latin).

¤ Rood. [rōōd.] (n.) A crucifix symbolizing the cross on which Jesus was crucified. 

¤ optic glass. [ŏp'tĭk glăs.] (n.) An astronomer's telescope.

¤ ruth. [rōōth.] (n.) 1: Compassion or pity for another. 2: Sorrow or misery about one's own misdeeds or flaws.

The Indian upon God.

I passed along the water's edge below the humid trees,
My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,
My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl pace
All dripping on the grassy slope, and saw them cease the chase
Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak:
Who holds the world between His bill and made us strong or weak
Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.
The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from his eye.
I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:
Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,
For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide
Is but a sliding drop of rain between his petals wide.

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes
Brimful of starlight, and he said: The Stamper of the Skies,
He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He
Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?
I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:
Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,
He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night
His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.

¤ rush. [rŭsh.] (n.) 1a: Any of various stiff marsh plants of the genus Juncus, having pliant hollow or pithy stems and small flowers with scalelike perianths. 1b: Any of various similar, usually aquatic plants.

¤ moorfowl. [mōōr'foul.] (n.) A colloquial British name for the red grouse. A grouse (Lagopus lagopus subspecies scoticus) of the British Isles that has chestnut plumage and inhabits open fields.

¤ roebuck. [rō'bŭk.] (n.) A male roe deer. A rather small, delicately formed Eurasian deer (Capreolus capreolus) having short branched antlers in the male and a brownish coat.

To an Isle in the Water.

Shy one, shy one,
Shy one of my heart,
She moves in the firelight
Pensively apart.

She carries in the dishes,
And lays them in a row.
To an isle in the water
With her would I go.

She carries in the candles,
And lights the curtained room,
Shy in the doorway
And shy in the gloom;

And shy as a rabbit,
Helpful and shy.
To an isle in the water
With her would I fly.

The Meditation of the Old Fisherman.

You waves, though you dance by my feet like children at play,
Though you glow and you glance, though you purr and you dart;
In the Junes that were warmer than these are, the waves were more gay,
When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

The herring are not in the tides as they were of old;
My sorrow! for many a creak gave the creel in the cart
That carried the take to Sligo town to be sold,
When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

And ah, you proud maiden, you are not so fair when his oar
Is heard on the water, as they were, the proud and apart,
Who paced in the eve by the nets on the pebbly shore,
When I was a boy with never a crack in my heart.

¤ Sligo. [slī'gō.] (pr. n.) A municipal borough of northern Ireland on Sligo Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. There are megalithic ruins nearby. Yeats' most beloved place.

The Ballad of the Foxhunter.

'Lay me in a cushioned chair;
Carry me, ye four,
With cushions here and cushions there,
To see the world once more.

'To stable and to kennel go;
Bring what is there to bring;
Lead my Lollard to and fro,
Or gently in a ring.

'Put the chair upon the grass:
Bring Rody and his hounds,
That I may contented pass
From these earthly bounds.'

His eyelids droop, his head falls low,
His old eyes cloud with dreams;
The sun upon all things that grow
Falls in sleepy streams.

Brown Lollard treads upon the lawn,
And to the armchair goes,
And now the old man's dreams are gone,
He smooths the long brown nose.

And now moves many a pleasant tongue
Upon his wasted hands,
For leading aged hounds and young
The huntsman near him stands.

'Huntsman Rody, blow the horn,
Make the hills reply.'
The huntsman loosens on the morn
A gay wandering cry.

Fire is in the old man's eyes,
His fingers move and sway,
And when the wandering music dies
They hear him feebly say,

'Huntsman Rody, blow the horn,
Make the hills reply.'
'I cannot blow upon my horn,
I can but weep and sigh.'

Servants round his cushioned place
Are with new sorrow wrung;
Hounds are gazing on his face,
Aged hounds and young.

One blind hound only lies apart
On the sun-smitten grass;
He holds deep commune with his heart:
The moments pass and pass;

The blind hound with a mournful din
Lifts slow his wintry head;
The servants bear the body in;
The hounds wail for the dead.

¤ Lollard. [lŏl'ərd.] (n.) A member of a sect of religious reformers in England who were followers of John Wycliffe in the 14th and 15th centuries. In this poem, the huntsman's almsgiver.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree.
THE ROSE [1893]

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 grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

1932 Recording of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" MP3
1.62 MB

1937 Recording of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" MP3
1.39 MB

¤ Innisfree. [ĭn'ĭsh-frē.] (pr. n.) A little island in Lough Gill. The lake (lough) is located in County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland, and it contains about twenty small islands. The Lake Isle of Innisfree numbers among these twenty. Yeats recollected the Lake Isle of Innisfree (upon which he had imagined he would live in Thoreauian simplicity) when he was extremely homesick in London, thus prompting the poem.

¤ wattle. [wŏt'l.] (n.) 1.a: A construction of poles intertwined with twigs, reeds, or branches, used for walls, fences, and roofs. 1.b: Material used for such construction.

¤ linnet. [lĭn'ĭt.] (n.) A small Old World finch (Carduelis cannabina) having brownish plumage.

The Song of the Old Mother.

I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
And then I must scrub and bake and sweep
Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
And the young lie long and dream in their bed
Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
And their day goes over in idleness,
And they sigh if the wind but lift a tress:
While I must work because I am old,
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.

1934 Recording of "The Song of the Old Mother" MP3
948 KB

¤ tress. [trĕs.] (n.) 1: A long lock or ringlet of hair. 2: Archaic. A plait or braid of hair.

The Fiddler of Dooney.

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folks dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Mocharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With 'Here is the fiddler of Dooney!'
And dance like a wave of the sea.

1932 Recording of "The Fiddler of Dooney" MP3
1.25 MB

¤ Dooney. [dōōn'ē.] (pr. n.) Refers to Dooney Rock, a location in County Sligo. Dooney Rock is located near Lough Gill, the lake wherein the Lake Isle of Innisfree resides.

¤ Kilvarnet. [kĭl-văr'nĭt.] (pr. n.) A parish located within County Sligo. The old Kilvernet parish has since been dissolved, and the land currently belongs to Collooney (Kilvarnet) parish. The newer parish chose to keep Kilvarnet in its name to preserve the old name used in Yeats' poem.

¤ Mocharabuiee. [mäk-rə-bwē.] (pr. n.) A plain on the outskirts of County Sligo. [Daniel Albright, ed. The Poems (London, Everyman, 1990).] A townland on the western edge of Sligo Town. Its anglicised name is Maugheraboy. The name comes from Gaelic and means "yellow plain." Thanks goes to Margaret and Declan from the Yahoo Group [YEATS-DISCUSSION] for this information.

Solomon and the Witch. 

And thus declared that Arab lady:
'Last night, where under the wild moon
On grassy mattress I had laid me,
Within my arms great Solomon,
I suddenly cried out in a strange tongue
Not his, not mine.'
                            Who understood
Whatever had been said, sighed, sung,
Howled, miau-d, barked, brayed, belled, yelled, cried, crowed,
Thereon replied: 'A cockerel
Crew from a blossoming apple bough
Three hundred years before the Fall,
And never crew again till now,
And would not now but that he thought,
Chance being at one with Choice at last.
He that crowed out eternity
Thought to have crowed it in again.
For though love has a spider's eye
To find out some appropriate pain —
Aye, though all passion's in the glance —
For every nerve, and tests a lover
With cruelties of Choice and Chance;
And when at last that murder's over
Maybe the bride-bed brings despair,
For each an imagined image brings
And finds a real image there;
Yet the world ends when these two things,
Though several, are a single light,
When oil and wick are burned in one;
Therefore a blessed moon last night
Gave Sheba to her Solomon.'

'Yet the world stays.'
                                'If that be so,
Your cockerel found us in the wrong
Although he thought it worth a crow.
Maybe an image is too strong
Or maybe is not strong enough.'

'The night has fallen; not a sound
In the forbidden sacred grove
Unless a petal hit the ground,
Nor any human sight within it
But the crushed grass where we have lain;
And the moon is wilder every minute.
O! Solomon! let us try again.'

Dylan Thomas Reading "Solomon and the Witch" MP3
3.18 MB

¤ that Arab lady. Yeats refers descriptively to Sheba, one of the two speakers in the poem.

¤ Solomon. One of the Biblical kings of Israel. Solomon's birth was regarded as an act of grace, as he came from the trouble-ridden union between David and Bathsheba. One interpretation of the poem regards Solomon as symbolic of Western civilization through the Judeo-Christian heritage.

¤ miau. [mēyäoo.] (Interj.) Colloquial variation of "meow," the onomatopoetic word describing catspeak.

¤ cockerel. [kŏk'ər-əl.] (n.) A young rooster. Jon Stallworthy writes that "[the] cock as a symbol of resurrection appears in 'Two Kings,' 'Solomon and the Witch,' and 'Byzantium,' and is conceivably related to the cock that crowed over Saint Peter." [Stallworthy, Jon. "W. B. Yeats' 'Under Ben Bulben'." The Review of English Studies. February 1966.]

¤ Sheba. [shē'bə.] According to Biblical tradition (1 Kings 10), Sheba was an Islamic nation to the South of the nation of Israel. Its queen traveled to witness King Solomon's glory. Interpretations of the story diverge from each other at this point; some say she went back to her kingdom, while others say that she and Solomon either had an affair or wedded. Yeats' poem narrates from within the second interpretation. Also, Yeats refers to the queen of Sheba by the name of her nation, as many other authors do. According to the same interpretation that regards Solomon as symbolic of Western civilization, Sheba represents Eastern civilization. These representations also hearken back to the polar forces of Choice and Chance used through the poem, as Yeats perceived them via his occult system described in A Vision.

Leda and the Swan.
THE TOWER [1928]

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                      Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Dylan Thomas Reading "Leda and the Swan" MP3
1.33 MB

¤ Leda. [lē'də.] Yeats used an incident recorded in Greek myth as his source material. Leda was the daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius and later wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. Zeus took the form of a swan and raped Leda. From the copulation Leda gave birth to eggs that hatched Pollux and Helena, the trophy wife whose kidnapping started the Trojan War. Leda later gave birth to Castor and Clytemnestra, both of whom also feature in the tragedies set historically during the Trojan War and after. Yeats described the instance of Leda's rape. Leda's rape has been a subject of great fascination for many visual artists. Peter Paul Ruben's and Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings stand out in particular. 

¤ Agamemnon. [ăg-ə-mĕm'nŏn, -nən.] Agamemnon is another figure from Greek mythology, more tragic than Leda. He was the king of Argos. His family history had involved rape, murder, incest, and other forms of treachery; ancient Greek poets and dramatists generally regard his family history as responsible for his downfall. Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, and his brother Menelaus married Helena. Agamemnon fought alongside his brother during the Trojan War. Prior to his departure from Argos, he had sacrificed his youngest daughter Iphigenia to ensure safe sea-faring. His decision to sacrifice Iphigenia enraged Clytemnestra who plotted how to assassinate Agamemnon after he returned home from the Trojan War — and she did just that. She netted him while he was bathing and murdered him while he struggled. This particular myth has also served visual artists well. John Collier's painting Clytemnestra After the Murder and Pierre Narcisse Guerin's The Murder of Agamemnon are especially gripping.

Yeats concluded the poem with the lines: "A shudder in the loins engenders there / The broken wall, the burning roof and tower / And Agamemnon dead." He mentions Agamemnon by way of presenting Leda's rape as the root of so much tragedy: the felling of Troy's walls, the desiccation of its inner structure, and Agamemnon's own demise after exacting such destruction all trace their genealogy back to Zeus's "shudder in the loins."

A Dialogue of Self and Soul.


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?

My Self. The consecrated 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 wooden scabbard bound and wound,
        Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.

My Soul. Why should the imagination of a man
        Long past his prime remember things that are
        Emblematic of love and war?
        Think of ancestral night that can,
        If but imagination scorn the earth
        And intellect its wandering
        To this and that and t'other thing,
        Deliver from the crime of death and birth.

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
        Emblematic of the night,
        And claim as by a soldier's right
        A charter to commit the crime once more.

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 
        Is from the Ought, or Knower from the 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.


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.

Dylan Thomas Reading an Excerpt from "A Dialogue of Self and Soul" MP3
1.86 MB

¤ Sato's ancient blade. [sä'tō.] (pr. n.) The reference to "Sato's ancient blade" has an interesting anecdote regarding Yeats' trip to Japan behind it. Since I have relied upon a few sources that explain it quite well, I will link you to a page on my site that offers those pages' presentation: ADILEGIAN | Yeats' Acquisition and Poetic Use of Sato's Sword. This same sword also appears in Yeats' poems "My Table" and "Symbols." 

¤ Montashigi. [môn-tä-shē-gĭ.] (pr. n.) My copy of The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats offers the following annotation: "Bishū Osafune Motoshigé, or Motoshigé of the later generation, flourished in the Era of Ōei (1394-1482)" (page 499).

The specific sword is given the rank of Jûyô Bunkasai 『重要文化財』which translates into "Important Cultural Item." The rank of Jûyô Bunkasai is the second highest rank possible for a sword to earn. Swords that receive the distinction should be high quality, made by an important swordmaker, and should also be historically significant in some way (Source).

The sword-making tradition known as Osafune Motoshigé 『長船元重』 is listed in the book Kaihokenshaku 『懐宝剣尺』 as one of the twelve Saijo Owazamono 『最上大業物』, literally "master works" (Source). The first Motoshigé 『元重』 sword created was made circa 1303-1306 by Ko-Motoshigé 『古元重』, literally "old Motoshigé" (Source). As the Ōei Era came underway, swordmaking as an art saw a sort of revival. Here the tradition of Osafune Motoshigé swordmaking began to identify itself as distinct from other traditions. 

To understand what its name means (and place Yeats' corruption Montashigi into context) we need to understand something about Japanese sword nomenclature. The sword name's first designator Bishū  『備州』— refers to the province wherein it was made. The second designator Osafune 『長船町』 — refers to the general aesthetic school of sword design principles to which the swordmaker adhered. Given the limitations placed on transportation and mobility, these aesthetic schools naturally took the names of the towns wherein their principles originated and flourished. Osafune was located in the province of Bizen 『備前市』 during the Era of Ōei. Bishū happens to be an alternative name for Bizen province.

The designator Motoshigé refers to the master-student lineage. In other words, Ko-Motoshigé had a unique way of making swords which he taught to his sons and non-familial apprentices, who then in turn taught the technique and style to their sons and non-familial apprentices. As the Osafune school of sword design became more defined, the Motoshigé techniques and stylistic decisions adapted to those design aesthetics. The result was a quiet, reserved blade that utilized the grand Sôshû design at the same time (Source). 

A genealogy of the Bishū (Bizen) Osafune Motoshigé school can be found here.

¤ ignominy. [ĭg'nə-mĭnē, -mə-nē.] (n.) 1: Great personal dishonor or humiliation. 2: Shameful or disgraceful action, conduct, or character.

Coole and Ballylee, 1931.

Under my window-ledge the waters race,
Otters below and moor-hens on the top,
Run for a mile undimmed in Heaven's face
Then darkening through 'dark' Raftery's 'cellar' drop,
Run underground, rise in a rocky place
In Coole demesne, and there to finish up
Spread to a lake and drop into a hole.
What's water but the generated soul?

Upon the border of that lake's a wood
Now all dry sticks under a wintry sun,
And in a copse of beeches there I stood,
For Nature's pulled her tragic buskin on
And all the rant's a mirror of my mood:
A sudden thunder of the mounting swan
I turned about and looked where branches break
The glittering reaches of the flooded lake.

Another emblem there! That stormy white
But seems a concentration of the sky;
And, like the soul, it sails into the sight
And in the morning's gone, no man knows why;
And is so lovely that it sets to right
What knowledge or its lack had set awry,
So arrogantly pure, a child might think
It can be murdered with a spot of ink.

Sound of a stick upon the floor, a sound
From somebody that toils from chair to chair;
Beloved books that famous hands have bound,
Old marble heads, old pictures everywhere;
Great rooms where travelled men and children found
Content or joy; a last inheritor
Where none has reigned that lacked a name and fame
Or out of folly into folly came.

A spot whereon the founders lived and died
Seemed once more dear than life; ancestral trees
Or gardens rich in memory glorified
Marriages, alliances and families,
And every bride's ambition satisfied.
Where fashion or mere fantasy decrees
Man shifts about — all that great glory spent —
Like some poor Arab tribesman and his tent.

We were the last romantics — chose for theme
Traditional sanctity and loveliness;
Whatever's written in what poets name
The book of the people; whatever most can bless
The mind of man or elevate a rhyme;
But all is changed, that high horse riderless,
Though mounted in that saddle Homer rode
Where the swan drifts upon a darkening flood.

1937 Recording of Two Stanzas from "Coole and Ballylee, 1931" MP3
1.51 MB

¤ Coole. [kōōl.] (pr. n.) A reference to Coole Park located in County Galway (Gort), the former home of Lady Gregory. Lady Gregory and Yeats were formerly close friends, and they collaborated to found the Abbey Theater, Ireland's National Theater. Coole Park was the center of the Irish Literary Revival in the twentieth century.

¤ Ballylee. [bălē lē'.] (pr. n.) A reference to Thoor Ballylee, or Ballylee Castle located in County Galway (Gort). Yeats purchased the property in 1916 and restored it, after which he made the castle his summer home for the next twelve years.

¤ moor-hen. [mōōr' hĕn.] (n., Chiefly British) 1: A common and widely distributed species of gallinule. Gallinula chloropus. 2: A female red grouse.

¤ Raftery. [răft'ŭr-ē.] (pr. n.) A reference to the Irish poet Antoine O'Raiftearaí (1784-1835). Raftery wrote in the Irish language, and is regarded as the last of the wandering bards. His poems were not written down while he lived, but Yeats' close friend Lady Gregory transcribed, collected, and published them after his death. He was the son of a Sligo weaver. He wandered among the homeless people of Ireland, composing and singing his ballads. He was blinded by smallpox as a child and sometimes is referred to as "Blind Raftery." You may read Raftery's most frequently circulated poem here.

¤ demesne. [dĭ-mān', -mēn.] (n.) 1: Law. Possession and use of one's own land. 2: Manorial land retained for the private use of a feudal lord. 3: The grounds belonging to a mansion or country house. 4: An extensive piece of landed property; an estate. 5: A district; a territory. 6: A realm; a domain.

¤ buskin. [bŭs'kĭn.] (n.) A foot and leg covering reaching halfway to the knee, resembling a laced half boot.

For Anne Gregory.

'Never shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.'

'But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.'

'I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.'

Dylan Thomas Reading "For Anne Gregory" MP3
1.05 MB

Three Things.

'O cruel Death, give three things back.'
Sang a bone upon the shore;
'A child found all a child can lack,
Whether of pleasure or of rest,
Upon the abundance of my breast':
A bone wave-whitened and dried in the wind.

'Three dear things that women know,'
Sang a bone upon the shore;
'A man if but I held him so
When my body was alive
Found all the pleasure that life gave':
A bone wave-whitened and dried in the wind.

'The third thing that I think of yet,'
Sang a bone upon the shore;
'Is that morning when I met
Face to face my rightful man
And did after stretch and yawn':
A bone wave-whitened and dried in the wind.

Dylan Thomas Reading "Three Things" MP3
1.41 MB

The Three Bushes.
    An incident from the 'Historia me Temporis'
    of the Abbé Michel de Bourdeville.
NEW POEMS [1938]

Said lady once to lover,
'None can rely upon
A love that lacks its proper food;
And if your love were gone
How could you sing those songs of love?
I should be blamed, young man.'
            O my dear, O my dear.

'Have no lit candles in your room,'
That lovely lady said,
'That I at midnight by the clock
May creep into your bed,
For if I saw myself creep in
I think I should drop dead.'
            O my dear, O my dear.

'I love a man in secret,
Dear chambermaid,' said she,
'I know that I must drop down dead
If he stop loving me,
Yet what could I but drop down dead
If I lost my chastity?'
            O my dear, O my dear.

'So you must lie beside him
And let him think me there,
And maybe we are all the same
Where no candles are,
And maybe we are all the same
That strip the body bare.'
            O my dear, O my dear.

But no dogs barked and midnights chimed,
And through the chime she'd say,
'That was a lucky thought of mine,
My lover looked so gay;'
But heaved a sigh if the chambermaid
Looked half asleep all day.
            O my dear, O my dear.

'No, not another song,' said he,
'Because my lady came
A year ago for the first time
At midnight to my room,
And I must lie between the sheets
When the clock begins to chime.'
            O my dear, O my dear.

'A laughing, crying, sacred song,
A leching song,' they said.
Did ever men hear such a song?
No, but that day they did.
Did ever man ride such a race?
No, not until he rode.
            O my dear, O my dear.

But when his horse had put its hoof
Into a rabbit hole
He dropped upon his head and died.
His lady saw it all
And dropped and died thereon, for she
Loved him with her soul.
            O my dear, O my dear.

The chambermaid lived long, and took
Their graves into her charge,
And there two bushes planted
That when they had grown large
Seemed sprung from but a single root
So did their roses merge.
            O my dear, O my dear.

When she was old and dying,
The priest came where she was;
She made a full confession.
Long looked he in her face,
And O, he was a good man
And understood her case.
            O my dear, O my dear.

He bade them take and bury her
Beside her lady's man,
And set a rose-tree on her grave.
And now none living can
When they have plucked a rose there
Know where its roots began.
            O my dear, O my dear.

Dylan Thomas Reading "The Three Bushes" MP3
4.69 MB

Long-legged Fly.
LAST POEMS [1938-1939]

That civilization may not sink
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post.
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a thinker shuffle
Picked up on the street.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls in puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on the scaffold reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

Dylan Thomas Reading "Long-legged Fly" MP3
1.69 MB

The Circus Animals' Desertion.
LAST POEMS [1938-1939]


I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.


What can I but enumerate old themes,
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his fairy bride.

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it,
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love
And not those things that they were emblems of.  


Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Dylan Thomas Reading "The Circus Animals' Desertion" MP3
3.28 MB

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Audio Recording Information

1: Recorded with ARCHOS VIDEO AV 120 Jukebox from HP Pavilion Laptop. Saved to harddrive from the website titled William Butler Yeats Audio Files. Featured on the album Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work from Tennyson to Plath.

2: Recorded with ARCHOS VIDEO AV 120 Jukebox from HP Pavilion Laptop. Saved to harddrive from the website of the Audible Yeats.

3: Recorded with ARCHOS VIDEO AV 120 Jukebox from HP Pavilion Laptop. Saved to harddrive with Real7ime Converter as a .WAV file from .RAM content originally accessed from the web page BBC - BBC Four - Audio Interviews - William Butler Yeats. The entire performance may be accessed from the BBC's web site.

4: Recorded with ARCHOS VIDEO AV 120 Jukebox from HP Pavilion Laptop. Material accessed online from Salon.com's premium subscription webpages. Audio material featured on Dylan Thomas: The Caedmon CD Collection, Disc 6. 

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