Collected Poems (W.B. Yeats)


Title: Collected Poems

Author: W.B. Yeats

Publisher: Macmillan Popular Classics

Pages: 476

Format Read: Paperback

“Come round me, little childer;

There, don’t fling stones at me

Because I mutter as I go;

But pity Moll Magee.”

–  ‘The Ballad of Moll Magee’ by W.B. Yeats, in “Collected Poems”

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) wrote poetry and plays and prose pieces that were lush in imagery and mysticism, and myth – with themes ranging from mythology and folklore and romance to politics and war and the world around him. “Collected Poems” is a beautifully compiled volume of Yeats’s poetry, and since the book is over 400 pages long, there are a great many poems dealing with a variety of themes.

Sometimes, there are moments when I would like to disengage from the chaos of the world around me, and dive straight into a poem rich in symbolism. And Yeats’s poetry gives me exactly that, an escape, a reprieve. There is a dream-like quality to the poems in ‘Collected Poems.’ Personally, I prefer the works that touch upon mythology and folk tales, poems with a hint of otherworldly magic.

It is difficult to choose a few from such a large selection of poetry, especially when there are classics in here like ‘Sailing to Byzantium.’

‘Anashuya and Vijaya’ (page 7) is particularly intriguing. This one has an ancient Indian feel to it, like looking past a gauzy veil into a sunlit colonnade. ‘Anashuya and Vijaya’ is a romance – Anashuya is a priestess, and she suspects Vijaya of seeing another woman. What follows is quite the lyrical confrontation.

‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ (page 173) is the soliloquy of a pilot during the First World War. At a time of turmoil, the pilot sees himself perishing for his cause – and he finds hope in his country, and his people, and the place of his birth, Ireland. This is a short poem, and very heartfelt. ‘Easter 1916’ (page 234) again deals with Ireland’s uprising against the British in the Easter Rising of April 1916. It is a political poem that uses powerful imagery – peaceful pastoral scenes and the fire of an uprising, and then, finally, sorrow for the dead.

Overall, “Collected Poems” is a lovely, well indexed compilation that makes Yeats’s poetry that much more accessible.

“Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

My country is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor…”

–  ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ by W.B. Yeats, in “Collected Poems”


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