10 of the Best William Butler Yeats Poems - Poem Analysis (2022)

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1865. As a young man he was educated in London and Dublin, and spent the majority of his free time in western Ireland at a family summer home. Yeats published his first volume of poetry in 1887 and was very active in the Irish literary scene. In 1922, Yeats was appointed to the Irish Senate during a time in which his poetic and dramatic work was highly experimental and patriotic.

Yeats wrote a number of protest poems against the Nationalist movement and he would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 for his dramatic works. His best work was still to come as he published the volumes The Wild Swans, The Tower, and Last Poems and Plays, along with a number of others, from 1919 till his death. These volumes solidified his place as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. William Butler Yeats died on January 28, 1939 in Menton, France.

10 of the Best William Butler Yeats Poems - Poem Analysis (1)

Best William Butler Yeats Poems

  • 1 Meru
  • 2 Leda and the Swan
  • 3 The Song of Wandering Aengus
  • 4 He Wishes His Beloved Were Dead
  • 5 When You Are Old
  • 6 The Circus Animals’ Desertion
  • 7 Lake Isle of Innisfree
  • 8 The Sad Shepherd
  • 9 The Second Coming
  • 10 Easter, 1916
(Video) "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats


‘Meru’ delves into the importance of spirituality in a world of illusion. The speaker does not believe that civilization has anything to offer. It is too transitory, with the sun rising and setting and inevitably destroying what man has made. This means that one must turn inward. A spiritual journey does not come easy though. It must be embarked on with the right understanding of life and nature. The speaker provides an example of a true spiritual journey. He gives details on the lives of two monks who are on Mount Meru and Mount Everest. While Everest is being traversed as a physical test, the scaling of Meru is a spiritual one.

Leda and the Swan

‘Leda and the Swan’ is one of William Butler Yeats most popular, mythology based poems. It is a sonnet that takes its context from a Greek myth in which Leda, a princess from Aetolia, is seduced by Zeus, in the form of a swan. It is from this union that the entire race of heroes and heroines were born. These were the founders of Athens and many of them feature in Homer’s writings. It was published in Yeats’ 1928 collection, The Tower. This publication is considered to be one of the most important works of the 20th century.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

This piece stems from stories based in Celtic mythology and tells one part of the life of a main character, Aengus. It details Aengus’ quest to find a girl he once saw in his youth.He meditates on one moment in his past which has defined all the years he has lived since. It was a normal day, but then everything changed. He pulled a silver trout from the river and it turned into a “glittering girl.” Before he could act, she disappeared into the forest. From that moment, his life has been entirely devoted to finding this woman. While in parts sorrowful, the speaker in ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ has not given up hope. He knows a wonderful future awaits him if he could only find her.

(Video) 4. William Butler Yeats

He Wishes His Beloved Were Dead

Another of William Butler Yeats more popular poems, this piece is a ballad in which one lover yearns for the death of the other so that she might forgive him. The main desire of the speaker in this text is that his lover die, return to him as a ghost, and then submit to his will. If this happens, he’ll finally be happy with her. He’ll be able to make her into the person he thinks she should be.

There is something untoward the speaker did that turned his lover away from him. It is never mentioned explicitly in the text, leaving a reader to guess what made her “hasten away” from his touch. Using a variety of beautiful images, the speaker concludes by saying that the “will of wild birds” she had in life will dissipate in death. Her hair will be wrapped up and made orderly, alluding to the control he will have over her.

When You Are Old

This piece is usually considered to be about Yeats’ personal life. It discusses the unrequited love that existed between Yeats and someone he used to be involved with. The poem is structured as a dramatic monologue in which the speaker is addressing his once lover. Through the image of a book, Yeats is able to remind the listener that she has been loved by many, but by none like she is by one man in particular. This is a reference to the speaker, of course. He loved her completely, and not just for her beauty as others have. It is the speaker’s hope that after being reminded of these facts that she feels regret for leaving him.

The Circus Animals’ Desertion

This piece is a meditation on moments the poet is unable to find the correct topics to write on. It details how over recent weeks Yeats has been unable to land on something worthwhile. He feels as though all his themes are exhausted and that he might have to make a big change in how he works. It scares him to think that he is going to have to turn to his own “heart” and emotions for inspiration. He concludes the poem by deciding that al the myths and tales his poems are based off of, are just not enough anymore. It is time for him to reach into his heart and find something new to write about.

(Video) William Butler Yeats - No Second Troy - Analysis. Poetry Lecture by Dr. Andrew Barker

Lake Isle of Innisfree

This piece is likely William Butler Yeats most widely read. It takes place in Ireland, in County Silgo and is about an uninhibited island. Yeats spent parts of his childhood not far from this location. The poem is a perfect example of the “Celtic Revivalstyle that sought to create a kind of poetry that was entirely Irish in origin, rather than based on the standards of English writers. The poem is in three sections.

The first speaks on the need of the speaker’s physical body. He intends to build a cabin and have a “hive for the honey bee.” The next section is about his soul, and the speaker’s quest for peace. Finally, the last section is about memory. In these lines he connects the memories of the Isle of Innisfree to his current life. The sensory recollections he has of this place come to him when he’s “on the roadway, or on the pavements grey.” They come up from his “deep heart’s core.”

The Sad Shepherd

This dark and lonely poem speaks on one man’s deepest sorrow and his quest to share or purge his emotions in a natural landscape. The speaker has one steadfast companion who follows him wherever he goes. It is the embodied form of “Sorrow.” His depression has been made manifest and travels by his side as he walks along the beach. None of the natural sights and sounds which might’ve soothed him previously work.

The stars, sky and sea laugh at him. Eventually in his desperation, the man speaks into a conch shell and hears a deep moaning echoed back at him. There is no echo as he was hoping, his words dissolve into nothing and he is left only with his original companion.

(Video) The Second Coming - William Butler Yeats poem

The Second Coming

Written in 1919, and printed in The Dial one year later. This piece uses Christian, apocalyptic imagery to speak on post-war Europe. After the First World War was over, the atmosphere in the countries involved had changed entirely. William Butler Yeats tapped into a general feeling that the war was heralding in the end of the world as spoken of in the Book of Revelations. There is a great deal taken from the Bible in ‘The Second Coming,’ such as images of the beast to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ.

Easter, 1916

This piece is one of William Butler Yeats most popular historical and political commentaries. It is based on an armed uprising in Ireland against British rule on Easter Monday in April of 1916. It was in the end unsuccessful, and a number of the leaders were executed for treason. This piece was written as a kind of epitaph, acknowledging the murdered leaders as martyrs. Within the text the speaker appears torn.

He rejects the violence of the uprising. Plus, he admits to feeling that the revolutionaries were wasting their time at the beginning of the poem. But by the end he acknowledges its importance. In fact, he relays something greater. There is an important unity amongst the Irish people being forged. The poem ends with one of Yeats most beautiful lines, “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”


What is William Butler Yeats best known for? ›

William Butler Yeats, (born June 13, 1865, Sandymount, Dublin, Ireland—died January 28, 1939, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France), Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

What are the major symbols of Yeats poetry? ›

The major symbols: W. B. Yeats used a number of symbols in his poetry. among these symbols the major symbols are- the rose, the tower, the gyre, the wheel, the sword, the sea, the bird, the tree, the sun, the moon, the gold, the silver, the earth, the water, the air and the fire.

Which of the following poem is written by W. B. Yeats? ›

'A Prayer For My Daughter' is considered as one of his most popular Modernist poetry works. Yeats married Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917; as the title suggests, he wrote this poem for his daughter Anne who was born in 1919 at the time of the Irish War of Independence.

By Dr Oliver Tearle ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ is one of W. B. Yeats’s (1865-1939) most popular poems. It’s also one of his shortest – just eight lines in al…

‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ is one of W. B. Yeats ‘s (1865-1939) most popular poems.. Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,. Enwrought with golden and silver light,. The blue and the dim and the dark cloths. Of night and light and the half light,. 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.. Interestingly, when the poem was first published in Yeats’s third volume of poems, The Wind among the Reeds , in 1899, it appeared under the title ‘Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’, Aedh being the speaker of the poem – a pale, sensitive, Keatsian, Romantic figure of a poet.. This is a rather old idea, but what helps to make the poem striking and memorable is its use of repetition of key words: cloths (three times), dreams (three times), light (three times), spread (twice), tread (twice), under your feet (twice).. Because this involves words which are themselves repeated, it shifts the expected rhyme (e.g. night and light at the end of the lines) to the middle of the lines, highlighting that things are not as the poet would wish them to be.. She knew she could be of more use to him as a muse than as a wife or lover.

Mark Twain? Theodor Reik? John Robert Colombo? James Eayrs? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a popular humorous maxim about history that is usually attributed to Mark Twain.. “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” as Mark Twain is often reputed to have said.. It has been said that history repeats itself.. The vision recurs; the eastern sun has a second rise; history repeats her tale unconsciously, and goes off into a mystic rhyme; ages are prototypes of other ages, and the winding course of time brings us round to the same spot again.. Mark Twain did use the phrase “History never repeats itself” as a preface to a longer remark within a novel he co-wrote with his neighbor Charles Dudley Warner.. “History,” it has been said, “does not repeat itself.. Colombo attributed the saying under examination to Mark Twain within an experimental work titled “A Said Poem”.. “History never repeats itself but it rhymes,” said Mark Twain.. is seeking to locate the source of the following line, attributed to Mark Twain: “History never repeats itself but it rhymes.”. The trouble with history is that while historians repeat each other, history never repeats itself.. (When Mark Twain declared ‘History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes,’ he went about as far as he could go.). Meanwhile, I’m grateful for random gems that I might otherwise have missed, like Mark Twain’s ‘History never repeats itself but it rhymes.’. In 1974 the journal “The History Teacher” printed another version of the maxim ascribed to Twain.. The relationship between the continuities and the discontinuities of history have rarely been better expressed than in Mark Twain’s epigram, “The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”. Posted on January 12, 2014March 16, 2022 Author quoteresearch Categories John Robert Colombo , Mark Twain , Theodor Reik Tags James Eayrs , John Robert Colombo , Mark Twain , Theodor Reik

The Three Questions By Leo Tolstoy Summary In the short story “Three Questions” Leo Tolstoy explores the theme of wisdom, acceptance, kindness, and forgiveness. The story is about a king who wants to know the answer of the three questions so as to get enlightenment. The three questions were: what was the right time for

Ans: The three questions after which the story is named are: what was the right time to begin something, who was the right person to listen and what was the most important thing to do.. What were the hermit’s answers to the three questions?. Why did the king want to know answers to three questions?. What were the hermit’s answers to the three questions?. A king had three————.


1. When You are Old - W. B. Yeats \\ Poem Analysis
2. "When You Are Old" | Analysis of the Poem
(Study with Maha)
3. √ Briefs: The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats Review Explained. Watch this video to find out!
4. WHEN YOU ARE OLD by William Butler Yeats - FULL Poem | GreatestAudioBooks.co
(Greatest AudioBooks)
5. How to Analyze a Poem: a close reading of W.B. Yeats' poem "Lake Isle of Innisfree"
(Dana Gioia)
6. √ Short Biography of William Butler YEATS Explained in 5 Minutes, Watch this video!

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