Best William Butler Yeats Quotes I Wish I Had Read

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Born in Ireland in 1865, William Butler Yeats published his first works in the mid-1880s while a student at Dublin’s Metropolitan School of Art. 

His early accomplishments include The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889) and such plays as The Countess Kathleen (1892) and Deirdre (1907). In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He went on to pen more influential works, including The Tower (1928) and Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems (1932). Yeats, who died in 1939, is remembered as one of the leading Western poets of the 20th century.

We have compiled a list of William Butler Yeats quotes for you to read.

Enjoy!

William Butler Yeats Quotes

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.

 

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.

 

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

 

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.

 

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

 

Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.

 

When you are old and gray 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.

 

The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober.

 

We are happy when for everything inside us there is a corresponding something outside us.

 

 

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.

 

Come away, O human child: To the waters and the wild with a fairy, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

 

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

 

Choose your companions from the best; Who draws a bucket with the rest soon topples down the hill.

 

I heard the old, old, men say ‘all that’s beautiful drifts away, like the waters.’

 

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.

 

Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.

 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

 

I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swings his lantern higher.

 

Those that I fight I do not hate, those that I guard I do not love.

 

Talent perceives differences; genius, unity.

 

But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.

 

The only business of the head in the world is to bow a ceaseless obeisance to the heart.

 

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.

 

You that would judge me, do not judge alone this book or that, come to this hallowed place where my friends’ portraits hang and look thereon; Ireland’s history in their lineaments trace; think where man’s glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such friends.

 

Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice?

 

Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution.

 

Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!

 

Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.

 

Out of Ireland have we come, great hatred, little room, maimed us at the start. I carry from my mother’s womb a fanatic heart.

 

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.

 

All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions.

 

 

And say my glory was I had such friends.

 

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing.

 

Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.

 

The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time.

 

The light of lights looks always on the motive, not the deed, the shadow of shadows on the deed alone.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

I am still of opinion that only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mood – sex and the dead.

 

But was there ever dog that praised his fleas?

 

Be secret and exult, Because of all things known That is most difficult.

 

If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.

 

A pity beyond all telling is hid in the heart of love.

 

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.

 

How far away the stars seem, and how far is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart.

 

One should not lose one’s temper unless one is certain of getting more and more angry to the end.

 

I think you can leave the arts, superior or inferior, to the conscience of mankind.

 

In dreams begins responsibility.

 

Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste.

 

Accursed who brings to light of day the writings I have cast away.

 

I am of a healthy long lived race, and our minds improve with age.

 

Nor dread nor hope attend a dying animal; a man awaits his end dreading and hoping all.

 

The creations of a great writer are little more than the moods and passions of his own heart, given surnames and Christian names, and sent to walk the earth.

 

An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick, unless soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress.

 

The years like great black oxen tread the world, and God, the herdsman goads them on behind, and I am broken by their passing feet.

 

I have known more men destroyed by the desire to have wife and child and to keep them in comfort than I have seen destroyed by drink and harlots.

 

Books are but waste paper unless we spend in action the wisdom we get from thought – asleep. When we are weary of the living, we may repair to the dead, who have nothing of peevishness, pride, or design in their conversation.

 

A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

 

To be born woman is to know – although they do not speak of it at school – women must labor to be beautiful.

 

I think it better that in times like these a poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth we have no gift to set a statesman right.

 

An intellectual hatred is the worst.

 

Cast your mind on other days that we in coming days may be still the indomitable Irishry.

 

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.

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

I learned from the people themselves, before I learned it from any book, that they cannot separate the idea of an art or a craft from the idea of a cult with ancient technicalities and mysteries. They can hardly separate mere learning from witchcraft, and are fond of words and verses that keep half their secret to themselves.

Ideas of Good and Evil by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

I think that all noble things are the result of warfare; great nations and classes, of warfare in the visible world, great poetry and philosophy, of invisible warfare, the division of a mind within itself, a victory, the sacrifice of a man to himself.

Synge and the Ireland of His Time by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.      

The Celtic Twilight by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

What is literature but the expression of moods by the vehicle of symbol and incident?

The Celtic Twilight by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

 

No human soul is like any other human soul, and therefore the love of God for any human soul is infinite, for no other soul can satisfy the same need in God.

The Celtic Twilight by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

…there are three things that are the gift of the Almighty–poetry and dancing and principles.

The Celtic Twilight by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

Hope and Memory have one daughter and her name is Art, and she has built her dwelling far from the desperate field where men hang out their garments upon forked boughs to be banners of battle. O beloved daughter of Hope and Memory, be with me for a little.

The Celtic Twilight by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

And yet the beauties that I loved Are in my memory;

I spit into the face of Time

That has transfigured me.

The Lamentation Of The Old Pensioner by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

I on the other hand believe that poetry and romance cannot be made by the most conscientious study of famous moments and of the thoughts and feelings of others, but only by looking into that little, infinite, faltering, eternal flame that we call ourselves.

The Secret Rose by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

 

…no shining candelabra have prevented us from looking into the darkness, and when one looks into the darkness there is always something there.

The Secret Rose by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats

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