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By William Butler Yeats

We sat together at one summer’s end,

That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,   

And you and I, and talked of poetry.

I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;

Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,   

Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.   

Better go down upon your marrow-bones   

And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   

Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   

For to articulate sweet sounds together

Is to work harder than all these, and yet   

Be thought an idler by the noisy set

Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen   

The martyrs call the world.’

                                          And thereupon

That beautiful mild woman for whose sake   

There’s many a one shall find out all heartache   

On finding that her voice is sweet and low   

Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—

Although they do not talk of it at school—

That we must labour to be beautiful.’

I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing   

Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.

There have been lovers who thought love should be   

So much compounded of high courtesy   

That they would sigh and quote with learned looks   

Precedents out of beautiful old books;   

Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’


We sat grown quiet at the name of love;   

We saw the last embers of daylight die,   

And in the trembling blue-green of the sky   

A moon, worn as if it had been a shell   

Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell   

About the stars and broke in days and years.


I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:   

That you were beautiful, and that I strove   

To love you in the old high way of love;

That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown   

As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.


n/a

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Love
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

William Butler Yeats
Born in Dublin, Ireland, William Butler Yeats was an enormously influential poet and playwright, whose work formed a clear link between the Romantic and Modern eras. His strong nationalism appeared in his poetry through the recurrent themes of Irish mythology and folklore. Yeats became deeply involved in Irish politics and was even appointed a senator of the Irish Free State. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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