Wide World of Quotes > W. B. Yeats Quotes


W. B. Yeats
Irish poet
(1865-1939)



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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.
-- "When You Are Old" (1893)
Comment: This poem speaks of lost love and how one feels when one has lost one's love.


Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silverlight,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
-- "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" (1899)
Comment: This poem tells of Yeats's love for Maude Gonne and about the fragility of that love.


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 county 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.
-- "An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" (1919)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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