Quotations From WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS


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  • It is most important that we should keep in this country a certain leisured class.... I am of the opinion of the ancient Jewish book which says "there is no wisdom without leisure."
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. Speech, March 28, 1923, to the Seanad Eireann, the Irish Senate.
  • "... Let the cage bird and the cage bird mate and the wild bird mate in the wild."
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. "Owen Aherne and His Dancers."
  • Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. letter, Jan. 4, 1939. The Letters of W.B. Yeats, ed. Allan Wade (1954). Yeats died Jan. 28, 1939.

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  • I agree about Shaw—he is haunted by the mystery he flouts. He is an atheist who trembles in the haunted corridor.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. Letter, July 1, 1921, to author George Russell. The Letters of W.B. Yeats, ed. Allan Wade (1954). Yeats expressed ambiguous views toward Shaw in his Autobiography (1938): "We all hated him with the left side of our heads, while admiring him immensely with the right side."
  • Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. letter, Feb. 3, 1889. Collected Letters, vol. 1, ed. John Kelly (1986). "Poets are the policemen of language," Yeats added, "they are always arresting those old reprobates the words."

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  • I am of a healthy long lived race, and our minds improve with age.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet. Letter, June 24, 1935. The Letters of W.B. Yeats, ed. Allan Wade (1954).
  • We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. "Anima Hominis," sct. 5, Essays (1924).

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  • I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal.... The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. letter, Aug. 30, 1888, to writer Katharine Tynan. The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats, vol. 1, ed. John Kelly (1986).

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  • Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste.
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. Speech, March 3, 1926, to the Seanad Eireann, the Irish Senate, on the coinage bill.
  • But was there ever dog that praised his fleas?
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. "To a Poet, Who Would Have Me Praise Certain Bad Poets, Imitators of His and Mine."

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