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William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

Quotations

  • ''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.
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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.
  • ''I think you can leave the arts, superior or inferior, to the conscience of mankind.''
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. Speech, June 7, 1923, to the Irish Senate. On the Censorship of Films Bill.
  • ''I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all ... like an opera.''
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. letter, Aug. 25, 1888, to writer Katherine Tynan (later Hinkson). The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats, vol. 1, ed. John Kelly (1986).
  • ''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).
  • ''"... 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."
  • ''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."
  • ''The only business of the head in the world is to bow a ceaseless obeisance to the heart.''
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. Letter, late summer 1886. Collected Letters, vol. 1, ed. John Kelly (1986). "I hate reasonable people," Yeats wrote, explaining his dislike for the novelist George Eliot, "the activity of their brains sucks up all the blood out of their hearts."
  • ''This melancholy London—I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.''
    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet. Letter, August 25, 1888, to writer Katharine Tynan (later Hinkson). Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats, vol. 1, ed. John Kelly (1986).
  • ''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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Her Anxiety

Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.

Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.

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