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The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats Volume I: The Poems: Revised Second Edition [Paperback]

William Butler Yeats , Richard J. Finneran
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 9 1996
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 reworkings 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.


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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

Review

"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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good edition of a great poet Oct. 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. 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I envy all newcomers Dec 19 2000
Format:Paperback
I envy anyone reading this who has yet to discover Yeats but wants to. One of my college professors said the same thing to me, and I still remember what it was like to fall under the spell of Yeats' language and his romanticism.
(But hey, if Sodom120--from Louisiana, no less--says these poems are "mediocre," then what do I, the worldwide poetry-reading public, generations of succeeding poets, and the Nobel committee know?)
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5.0 out of 5 stars IRISH GENIUS WITH WORLDWIDE, POSTHUMOUS APPEAL Nov. 30 2000
Format:Paperback
Before a reasoned, intelligent assessment of Yeats (or any other master poet such as Hardy, Frost,de la Mare, Wilbur, et al) can be made, one must ask the right preliminary question: What is Genius-level poetry? There are at least 6 primary components: 1)It withholds something from us at first, yielding its secrets slowly, like an attractive lover or an ocean (sand, shoreline, shallows, surfzone, shelf, offshore, blue depths);2)It surprises and satisfies simultaneously - it repays multiple re-readings: 'I knew that but I didn't know until now that I knew it'; 3) It is words set to life's music - it sounds, or sings, special, through appropriate rhythm and rhyme. Follow the music and the other senses follow along; follow the voice til you have no choice; 4)It is memorable, both in detailed words, metaphors, images, literary referents, phrasings, lines, sections/stanzas, and as a sum of things which exceeds the excellencies of the parts. It is memorizable. 5)It speaks to life's questions: what could be worse than answering questions no one is asking?; above all relevance synthesizes with reverence to create resonance. Its subject matter matters. Nothing is missing more in most poetry published today than lack of compression, resolution, depth: too much verse is a pretty pond acres wide, inches deep. Especially powerful verse has simplicity in perichoresis (interpenetration) with complexity or multiplicity, ambidextrously able to use telescope or microscope to bring the subject into focus for the reader. The best of Seuss appeals also to adults; the arcanest of Einstein, E=mc2, can even be grasped by children;Lastly,6) It fulfills its expectations and arrives: it reaches the reader at some point, in different ways at different times. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A strange, deceptive beauty Aug. 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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5.0 out of 5 stars Yeats's Second Coming June 29 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
It has long seemed that although Yeat is the best poet in English in our century, Eliot wrote the best poem. For "The Waste Land" captured a spiritual doubt and hunger that started between the wars and remained with us as a kind of heavy inertia; how can we make our lives meaningful, Eliot asked, and showed us that we have no idea where to start. But now such lethargy seems almost quaint; we don't now doubt what to do, but rather we do and doubt where it shall take us. What if all our global, unified and unifying efforts are taking us somewhere terrible? Yeats's poem "The Second Coming" now seems the true herald of our time.

Finneran's edition includes this poem in context, in its order in the development of Yeats's work. Read it as Yeat meant it to be read: followed by his equally great poem "A Prayer for my Daughter," where he offers hope in the beauty and innocence of personal ceremony. In a crowded, generic time, Yeats's poems are themselves ceremonies.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Collects major and minor poems
Offers a full selection of Yeats's poems from every stage of his career as a poet. His prose works and outlines of his philosophical positions and Irish history lie elsewhere.
Published 7 months ago by G Lawrence Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection!
Great collection at a great price. Using this for an upper level English class, and I'm thrilled I could order it online with Amazon for a decent price.
Published 11 months ago by Taryn
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid Kindle Version
The Kindle edition is an absolute travesty. No attention has been given to the proper appearance of the poems on the page; every single poem is marred by the failure to format... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Tim J. Prior
4.0 out of 5 stars All Is Good
It is wonderful to have a new copy of Yeat's Poems. This is a great publication and is easy to slip into one's shoulder bag to enjoy over a coffee or train trip. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Desmond
5.0 out of 5 stars The intesity of W.B. Yeats
"Art has, I beleive, always gained in intensity by limitation."
Yeats was the great poet of the 20th century... Read more
Published on March 2 2002 by Armen Pandola
3.0 out of 5 stars w.b. yeats
The woods of Arcady are dead. So too are the kings of old, and yeats, and tennyson, and chesterton. Yeats' poetry displays a sense of a man writing out of inferiority,... Read more
Published on March 14 2001 by Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Donne, Shakespeare, and ... Yeats?
Yeats is, quite simply, the greatest master of the English language since Shakespeare. His command, range, and intelligence are remarkable. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 1999 by Joseph Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fall in love...
All I can say is fall in love with her, read her "He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven" and she will be yours.
Published on June 5 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably... mediocre
William Butler Yeats is about as bad a poet one can be and still be considered "great". All of his poems are earnest and sincere, but they are totally appalling in... Read more
Published on March 23 1999 by sodom120@hotmail.com
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