Today’s the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. From what I’ve heard (including a couple of first hand accounts), he wasn’t a particularly nice man. But he was a great poet. So, if you want to quote favorite bits in the comments, quote away. One of mine (not one of his great and famous poems, but some nice lines all the same), Two Songs from a Play:

I SAW a staring virgin stand

Where holy Dionysus died,

And tear the heart out of his side.

And lay the heart upon her hand

And bear that beating heart away;

Of Magnus Annus at the spring,

As though God’s death were but a play.

Another Troy must rise and set,

Another lineage feed the crow,

Another Argo’s painted prow

Drive to a flashier bauble yet.

The Roman Empire stood appalled:

It dropped the reins of peace and war

When that fierce virgin and her Star

Out of the fabulous darkness called.


In pity for man’s darkening thought

He walked that room and issued thence

In Galilean turbulence;

The Babylonian starlight brought

A fabulous, formless darkness in;

Odour of blood when Christ was slain

Made all platonic tolerance vain

And vain all Doric discipline.

Everything that man esteems

Endures a moment or a day.

Love’s pleasure drives his love away,

The painter’s brush consumes his dreams;

The herald’s cry, the soldier’s tread

Exhaust his glory and his might:

Whatever flames upon the night

Man’s own resinous heart has fed.