The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats includes all of the poems authorized by Yeats for inclusion in his standard canon. Breathtaking in range, it encompasses the entire arc of his career, from luminous reworking of ancient Irish myths and legends, to passionate meditations on the demands and rewards of youth and old age, from exquisite, occasionally whimsical songs of love, nature, and art to somber and angry poems of life in a nation torn by war and uprising. In observing the development of rich and recurring images and themes over the course of his body of work, we can trace the quest of this century’s greatest poet to unite intellect and artistry in a single magnificent vision.
Revised and corrected, this edition includes Yeats’s own notes on his poetry, complemented by explanatory notes from esteemed Yeats scholar Richard J. Finneran. The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats is the most comprehensive edition of one of the world’s most beloved poets available in paperback.
The book is organized chronologically from his first collection, Crossways (1889), to Last Poems (1939). Crossways has an epigraph from William Blake: The stars are threshed, and the souls are threshed from their husks.
The first poem is a long one, but here is the beginning:
The Song of the Happy Shepherd
The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her Painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
From the endnotes: Arcady is Arcadia, the land imagined in the pastoral tradition as an ideal realm of rustic contentment. Chronos is the Greek word for time, personified by Pindar as the father of all.
And from page 56:
The Moods (The Wind Among the Reeds, 1899)
Time drops in decay,
Like a candle burnt out,
And the mountains and woods
Have their day, have their day;
What one in the rout
of the fire-born moods
Has fallen away?
has a useful note on the second poem. I’m still not sure I understand it. A rout
is a desperate retreat, but I’m not sure why the fire-born moods
are routed here.
I might have read these before, but I don’t remember them. I’m more familiar with his later poems.