WB Yeats

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photo of YeatsQuotes

  • It is so many years before one can believe enough in what one feels even to know what the feeling is
  • But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
  • Education is not the filling of a pail, but rather the lighting of a fire.
  • And say my glory was I had such friends.
  • There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met.
  • The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time.
  • Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.
  • We are happy when for everything inside us there is a corresponding something outside us.
  • 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.
  • People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.
  • You know what the Englishman's idea of compromise is? He says, Some people say there is a God. Some people say there is no God. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements.
  • Official Poem of this website, part IV of Vacillation
    My fiftieth year had come and gone,
    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.


William Butler Yeats, born 13 June 1865 in Sandymount, Ireland, died  28 January 1939. He was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation". Yeats is considered to be one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933).

He studied poetry in his youth and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. He joined the Theosophical Society, and was deeply involved in the Golden Dawn esoteric circle which was led by Aleister Crowley, roughly until the turn of the 20th century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and its slow-paced and lyrical poems display Yeats's debts to Spenser, Shelley, and the Pre-Raphaelite poets. He admired William Blake, and he produced a notated edition of his works - he described him as one of the "great artificers of God who uttered great truths to a little clan". From 1900, Yeats's poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life.