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The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats Paperback – September 9, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

William Butler Yeats, whom many consider this century's greatest poet, began as a bard of the Celtic Twilight, reviving legends and Rosicrucian symbols. By the early 1900s, however, he was moving away from plush romanticism, his verse morphing from the incantatory rhythms of "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree" into lyrics "as cold and passionate as the dawn." At every stage, however, Yeats plays a multiplicity of poetic roles. There is the romantic lover of "When You Are Old" and "A Poet to His Beloved" ("I bring you with reverent Hands / The books of my numberless dreams..."). And there are the far more bitter celebrations of Maud Gonne, who never accepted his love and engaged in too much politicking for his taste: "Why should I blame her that she filled my days / With misery, or that she would of late / Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways, / Or hurled the little streets upon the great, / Had they but courage equal to desire?" There is also the poet of conscience--and confrontation. His 1931 "Remorse for Intemperate Speech" ends: "Out of Ireland have we come. / Great hatred, little room, / Maimed us at the start. / I carried from my mother's womb / A fanatic heart."

Yeats was to explore several more sides of himself, and of Ireland, before his Last Poems of 1938-39. Many are difficult, some snobbish, others occult and spiritualist. As Brendan Kennelly writes, Yeats "produces both poppycock and sublimity in verse, sometimes closely together." On the other hand, many prophetic masterworks are poppycock-free--for example, "The Second Coming" ("Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...") and such inquiries into inspiration as "Among School Children" ("O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?"). And at his best, Yeats extends the meaning of love poetry beyond the obviously romantic: love becomes a revolutionary emotion, attaching the poet to friends, history, and the passionate life of the mind. --Kerry Fried


"My favourite poet is Yeats, who in my book is the greatest since Shakespeare" -- Michael Longley "His verse is inspired;his poetic persona is magnificent... He created a poetry both lyrical and demotic, melodic and rhetorical" -- Peter Ackroyd The Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 2nd Revised edition (September 9, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684807319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684807317
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

167 of 169 people found the following review helpful By Russ Mayes VINE VOICE on October 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
There isn't much question whether Yeats was a great poet, just where on the all time great list he falls. Whether you call him the greatest poet of the 20th century, or the greatest since Wordsworth, Milton or Shakespeare, his accomplishments are clear.
Beyond that, why should anyone buy this edition as opposed to any of the other available? First, the collected poems gives you a sense of his development and interests, not just the highlights of his greates poems. Second, and more importantly, this edition is well-annotated by Finneran. The notes are thorough without being unduly interpretive--they tell you what an allusion refers to, not how it affects the meaning of the poem. The notes aim to be useful to any reader, regardless of background. As a result, western readers will come across odd sounding notes such as "Jesus Christ is the founder of Christianity" or "Hamlet is the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name." Still, you'll be thankful for such prosaic entries as they explain Irish myth and locate historical allusions. All in all, it's an edition that belongs on any poetry lover's shelf.
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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Barnaby Thieme on October 23, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I trust it goes without saying that William Butler Yeats is one of the greatest English-language poets of all time. This volume contains his entire body of verse, and is a magnificent treasure trove that will delight and stun the reader for decades.

I give two stars to the cheap materials used to create this masterpiece. I literally had this book out of the Amazon box for a matter of hours before the cover started to curl of its own accord, as though possessed by a poetry-hating demon. The paper is low-grade and coarse, with an unappealing brownish tinge.

Despite my love of Yeats, I find that I unconsciously tend to keep this book on the shelf just to keep its ugliness out of site, and I am by no means an aesthete. If you can find a slightly nicer version, it is worth paying a little extra.
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95 of 105 people found the following review helpful By An Mhuruch on August 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I first started reading Yeats, I was very interested in Old Irish myths. Perhaps more importantly, I was also younger and more romantically inclined than I am nowadays. His early poetry seemed to possess an airy beauty, sweet in the best sense of the word and reminiscent of his contemporary Tagore. I felt bewitched.
Some time later, I read his poems again and felt deceived. They were whimsical, immature, unfinished. I could not understand why he was so highly praised. Whenever somebody told me he/she liked Yeats, I felt an embarrassment. I wondered if I had failed Yeats or if he was the deceiver.
However, when I approached him for the third time, I had a strange experience I can only compare with reading Nietzsche. I read a line or two, they seem too simple and crude. I read them a second time, they become opaque. A third time, they yield and I feel as if playing with a caleidoscope. Now at least I am wiser; I know I will be profoundly touched, annoyed and bored in turns, but I also know I will always return to Yeats, because a quarrel with him is better than a constant love for another poet.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review refers to Finneran's Revised Second Edition (paperback) 8x5x1.25 inches in size.

Much mention made here of the quality of the paper upon which these priceless and comprehensive poems are here printed.

This is a reader's copy, something to carry and to read. It is not furnishings for your room. It is not furniture. It is not personal adornment. This is the book of Life, to be opened, to be read.

Yes your reading may take its toll upon the vulnerable, gentle binding. Yes, your reading may find one day pages browning, of the old paperstock similar to old paperback books. But this book is to be read, not closed and saved and never seen. Read this book.

If you wish a book for adornment more than for reading, a book which may also withstand intensive reading over a lifetime, please go for the more costly The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats Volume I The Poems. You will still use this humble, serviceable paperback book for your daily reading of Yeats, your nightly study of his lyric and lore.

This is the book you may write in with joy and no regrets. It even has extra sheets for such a notation, and generous margins for your personal annotation and other marginalia, the ennegrams which arise upon dreaming with Yeats.

I can add nothing to what has already been said regarding the need within the human soul to read Yeats, to know Yeats, to love Yeats, to feel Yeats nearby throughout our long, lonely pilgrimage here. I can only defend this particular copy of Mr. Yeat's complete selection of his poetry for his official and authorized canon.

You will find much which is useful here, from the great Mr.
Read more ›
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Shirley Schwartz on September 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I had never taken the time to enjoy Yeats' poetry before although I had read single poems on occasion. It is an experience not to be missed to sit and read his better-known poetry all in one sitting. The beauty of the words and imagery is then much more apparent. Yeats writes a lot about mysticism and the occult, and ancient Ireland comes alive as you read his beautiful words. I read that Yeats, although he wrote poetry all his life, would only put down three or four lines per day. He was such a perfectionist that he wanted to make sure that his lines were perfect. It seems such a tedious procss, but what beautiful words he wrote! His time could not have been better spent than in creating three beautiful and perfect lines per day. His poetry changed as he aged, but it kept getting better and better. His earlier poetry portrayed a lot about faeries and the dream world the he lived in himself when he was young. The lyrics were tuneful and romantic. As he aged, the romanticism changed considerably and his poems were harder-driven with very deep messages underneath the words. These are truly masterpieces, and Yeats comes by his reputation as one of the greatest English writing poets of all time.
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