George William Russell

Irish writer, editor, critic, poet, and artistic painter (1867-1935)

George William Russell (10 April 186717 July 1935) was an Irish nationalist, critic, poet, painter and mystic who often wrote under the pseudonym "Æ."

Our hearts were drunk with a beauty
Our eyes could never see.


Forgive me, Spirit of my spirit, for this, that I have found it easier to read the mystery told in tears and understood Thee better in sorrow than in joy.
I can imagine that believer in material power murmuring as he went homeward, "it will all blow over now."
Yes. The wind from the Kingdom of Heaven has blown over the world, and shall blow for centuries yet.
What are called business habits were intended to make the life of man run in harmony with the steam engine, and his movement rival the train in punctuality.
  • Far up the dim twilight fluttered
    Moth-wings of vapour and flame:
    The lights danced over the mountains,
    Star after star they came.

    The lights grew thicker unheeded,
    For silent and still were we;
    Our hearts were drunk with a beauty
    Our eyes could never see.

  • When I first discovered for myself how near was the King in His beauty I thought I would be the singer of the happiest songs. Forgive me, Spirit of my spirit, for this, that I have found it easier to read the mystery told in tears and understood Thee better in sorrow than in joy; that, though I would not, I have made the way seem thorny, and have wandered in too many byways, imagining myself into moods which held Thee not. I should have parted the true from the false, but I have not yet passed away from myself who am in the words of this book. Time is a swift winnower, and that he will do quickly for me.
    • Preface to Collected Poems (1913)
  • A young man who had been troubling society with impalpable doctrines of a new civilization which he called "the Kingdom of Heaven" had been put out of the way; and I can imagine that believer in material power murmuring as he went homeward, "it will all blow over now." Yes. The wind from the Kingdom of Heaven has blown over the world, and shall blow for centuries yet.
    • The Economics of Ireland and the Policy of the British Government (1921)
  • After the spiritual powers, there is no thing in the world more unconquerable than the spirit of nationality. … The spirit of nationality in Ireland will persist even though the mightiest of material powers be its neighbor.
    • The Economics of Ireland and the Policy of the British Government (1921)
  • In ancient shadows and twilights
    Where childhood had strayed,
    The world’s great sorrows were born
    And its heroes were made.
    In the lost boyhood of Judas
    Christ was betrayed.
    • "Germinal" in Vale and Other Poems (1931)
  • Let thy young wanderer dream on:
    Call him not home.
    A door opens, a breath a voice
    From the ancient room,
    Speaks to him now. Be it dark or bright
    He is knit with his doom.
    • "Germinal" in Vale and Other Poems (1931)
  • We may fight against what is wrong, but if we allow ourselves to hate, that is to insure our spiritual defeat and our likeness to what we hate.
    • As quoted in The Living Torch, A.E. (1937) by Monk Gibbon
  • Seek on earth what you have found in heaven.
    • As quoted in The Unpractised Heart (1942) by Leonard Alfred George Strong, p. 147
  • I remember once quarreling with Yeats who was walking around the room with a sword in one hand muttering spells to ward off evil spirits, and I noticed that every time he passed a plate of plums he put down his unoccupied hand and took a plum and I said, "Yeats, you cannot evoke great spirits and eat plums at the same time."
    • As quoted in Across My Path (1952) by Pelham Edgar, p. 148
  • When steam first began to pump and wheels go round at so many revolutions per minute, what are called business habits were intended to make the life of man run in harmony with the steam engine, and his movement rival the train in punctuality.
    • As quoted in The School as a Home for the Mind : Creating Mindful Curriculum, Instruction, and Dialogue (2007) by Arthur L. Costa, p. 91

Letter to Mrs. T. P. Hyatt (1895)

There are heaps of things I would like to do, but there is no time to do them.
Published in the Canadian Theosophist Volume 20, #1 (1939)
  • There are heaps of things I would like to do, but there is no time to do them. The most gorgeous ideas float before the imagination, but time, money, and alas! inspiration to complete them do not arrive, and for any work to be really valuable we must have time to brood and dream a little over it, or else it is bloodless and does not draw forth the God light in those who read. I believe myself, that there is a great deal too much hasty writing in our magazines and pamphlets. No matter how kindly and well disposed we are when we write we cannot get rid of the essential conditions under which really good literature is produced, love for the art of expression in itself; a feeling for the music of sentences, so that they become mantrams, and the thought sings its way into the soul. To get this, one has to spend what seems a disproportionate time in dreaming over and making the art and workmanship as perfect as possible.
    I could if I wanted, sit down and write steadily and without any soul; but my conscience would hurt me just as much as if I had stolen money or committed some immorality. To do even a ballad as long as The Dream of the Children, takes months of thought, not about the ballad itself, but to absorb the atmosphere, the special current connected with the subject. When this is done the poem shapes itself readily enough; but without the long, previous brooding it would be no good.
    So you see, from my slow habit of mind and limited time it is all I can do to place monthly, my copy in the hands of my editor when he comes with a pathetic face to me.
  • If the Gods would only inspire me a little more vigorously I would write no end, but as it is I have to sweat over my work, such as it is, and often groan that I never have a chance to do it properly.

The Nuts of Knowledge (1903)

The Nuts Of Knowledge, Lyrical Poems Old and New By Æ, "Finished on the tenth day of October, in the year Nineteen Hundred & Three."
I thought, beloved, to have brought to you
A gift of quietness and ease and peace,
Cooling your brow as with the mystic dew
Dropping from twilight trees.
For sure the enchanted waters pour through every wind that blows,
  • I thought, beloved, to have brought to you
    A gift of quietness and ease and peace,
    Cooling your brow as with the mystic dew
    Dropping from twilight trees.
    Homeward I go not yet; the darkness grows;
    Not mine the voice to still with peace divine:
    From the first fount the stream of quiet flows
    Through other hearts than mine.
    Yet of my night I give to you the stars,
    And of my sorrow here the sweetest gains,
    And out of hell, beyond its iron bars,
    My scorn of all its pains.
    • "For Brian when he is grown up this handful of The Nuts of Knowledge I have gathered on The Secret Streams".

The Nuts of Knowledge

  • For sure the enchanted waters pour through every wind that blows.
    I think when night towers up aloft and shakes the trembling dew
    How every high and lonely thought that thrills my being through
    Is but a ruddy berry dropped down through the purple air,
    And from the magic tree of life the fruit falls everywhere.


  • We must pass like smoke or live within the spirit's fire;
    For we can no more than smoke unto the flame return

    If our thought has changed to dream, our will unto desire,
    As smoke we vanish though the fire may burn.
  • In the fire of love we live, or pass by many ways,
    By unnumbered ways of dream to death.

The Hermit

  • Now the quietude of earth
    Nestles deep my heart within;
    Friendships new and strange have birth
    Since I left the city's din.
  • Here the ancient mystery
    Holds its hands out day by day,
    Takes a chair and croons with me
    By my cabin built of clay.
    When the dusky shadow flits,
    By the chimney nook I see
    Where the old enchanter sits,
    Smiles, and waves, and beckons me.

The Great Breath

  • Its edges foamed with amethyst and rose,
    Withers once more the old blue flower of day:
    There where the ether like a diamond glows
    Its petals fade away.
  • The great deep thrills for through it everywhere
    The breath of beauty blows.
  • I saw how all the trembling ages past,
    Moulded to her by deep and deeper breath,
    Neared to the hour when Beauty breathes her last
    And knows herself in death.

The Divine Vision

  • This mood hath known all beauty for it sees
    O'erwhelmed majesties
    In these pale forms, and kingly crowns of gold
    On brows no longer bold,
    And through the shadowy terrors of their hell
    The love for which they fell,
    And how desire which cast them in the deep
    Called God too from his sleep.
  • Whatever time thy golden eyelids ope
    They travel to a hope;
    Not only backward from these low degrees
    To starry dynasties,
    But, looking far where now the silence owns
    And rules from empty thrones,
    Thou seest the enchanted halls of heaven burn
    For joy at our return.
  • Thy tender kiss hath memory we are kings
    For all our wanderings.
    Thy shining eyes already see the after
    In hidden light and laughter.

The Burning Glass

  • A shaft of fire that falls like dew,
    And melts and maddens all my blood,
    From out thy spirit flashes through
    The burning glass of womanhood.
  • I must endure the torturing ray,
    And, with all beauty, all desire.
    Ah, time-long must the effort be,
    And far the way that I must go
    To bring my spirit unto thee,
    Behind the glass, within the glow.

A Vision of Beauty

  • Where we sat at dawn together, while the star-rich heavens shifted,
    We were weaving dreams in silence, suddenly the veil was lifted.

    By a hand of fire awakened, in a moment caught and led
    Upward to the wondrous vision: through the star-mists overhead
    Flare and flaunt the monstrous highlands; on the sapphire coast of night
    Fall the ghostly froth and fringes of the ocean of the light.
  • We and it and all together flashing through the starry spaces
    In a tempest dream of beauty lighting up the place of places.

    Half our eyes behold the glory: half within the spirit's glow
    Echoes of the noiseless revels and the will of beauty go.
    By a hand of fire uplifted—to her star-strewn palace brought,
    To the mystic heart of beauty and the secret of her thought:
  • Here the wild will woke within her lighting up her flying dreams,
    Round and round the planets whirling break in woods and flowers and streams,
    And the winds are shaken from them as the leaves from off the rose,
    And the feet of earth go dancing in the way that beauty goes,
    And the souls of earth are kindled by the incense of her breath
    As her light alternate lures them through the gates of birth and death.
  • O'er the fields of space together following her flying traces,
    In a radiant tumult thronging, suns and stars and myriad races
    Mount the spirit spires of beauty, reaching onward to the day
    When the Shepherd of the Ages draws his misty hordes away
    Through the glimmering deeps to silence, and within the awful fold
    Life and joy and love forever vanish as a tale is told,
    Lost within the mother's being. So the vision flamed and fled,
    And before the glory fallen every other dream lay dead.

The Master Singer

  • I am the sunlight in the heart, the silver moonglow in the mind;
    My laughter runs and ripples through the wavy tresses of the wind.
    I am the fire upon the hills, the dancing flame that leads afar
    Each burning-hearted wanderer, and I the dear and homeward star.
  • They knew me from the dawn of time: if Hermes beats his rainbow wings,
    If Angus shakes his locks of light, or golden-haired Apollo sings,
    It matters not the name, the land; my joy in all the gods abides:
    Even in the cricket in the grass some dimness of me smiles and hides.
    For joy of me the day star glows, and in delight and wild desire
    The peacock twilight rays aloft its plumes and blooms of shadowy fire,
    Where in the vastness too I burn through summer nights and ages long,
    And with the fiery footed Watchers shake in myriad dance and song.


  • Not unremembering we pass our exile from the starry ways:
    One timeless hour in time we caught from the long night of endless days.
  • For beauty called to beauty and there thronged at the enchanter's will
    The vanished hours of love that burn within the Ever-living still.
  • As to her worshippers she came descending from her glowing skies
    So Aphrodite I have seen with shining eyes look through your eyes:
    One gleam of the ancestral face which lighted up the dawn for me:
    One fiery visitation of the love the gods desire in thee!


  • The blue dusk ran between the streets; my love was winged within my mind;
    It left to-day and yesterday and thrice a thousand years behind.
    To-day was past and dead for me for from to-day my feet had run
    Through thrice a thousand years to walk the ways of ancient Babylon.
  • The tower of heaven turns darker blue; a starry sparkle now begins;
    The mystery and magnificence, the myriad beauty and the sins
    Come back to me.
  • Oh real as in dream all this; and then a hand on mine is laid:
    The wave of phantom time withdraws; and that young Babylonian maid,
    One drop of beauty left behind from all the flowing of that tide,
    Is looking with the self-same eyes, and here in Ireland by my side.
    Oh, light our life in Babylon, but Babylon has taken wings,
    While we are in the calm and proud procession of eternal things.

Alter Ego

  • All the morn a spirit gay
    Breathes within my heart a rhyme,
    'Tis but hide and seek we play
    In and out the courts of Time.
  • Where the ring of twilight gleams
    Round the sanctuary wrought,
    Whispers haunt me — in my dreams
    We are one yet know it not.

    Some for beauty follow long
    Flying traces; some there be
    Seek thee only for a song:
    I to lose myself in thee.


  • Now when the spirit in us wakes and broods,
    Filled with home yearnings, drowsily it flings
    From its deep heart high dreams and mystic moods,
    Mixed with the memory of the loved earth things;
    Clothing the vast with a familiar face;
    Reaching its right hand forth to greet the starry race.
  • Nearer to Thee, not by delusion led,
    Though there no house fires burn nor bright eyes gaze,
    We rise, but by the symbol charioted,
    Through loved things rising up to Love's own ways
    By these the soul unto the vast has wings
    And sets the seal celestial on all mortal things.

Sung On A By-Way

  • What of all the will to do?
    It has vanished long ago,
    For a dream-shaft pierced it through
    From the Unknown Archer's bow.
  • Only in the self we grope
    To the misty end of time:
    Truth has put an end to hope.
    What of all the heart to love?
    Sadder than for will or soul,
    No light lured it on above;
    Love has found itself the whole.

The Hunter Also known as "Refuge".

  • Twilight, a timid fawn, went glimmering by,
    And night, the dark blue hunter, followed fast:
    Ceaseless pursuit and flight were in the sky,
    But the long chase had ceased for us at last.

The Vision Of Love

  • The twilight fleeted away in pearl on the stream,
    And night, like a diamond dome, stood still in our dream.
  • We loved in infinite spaces, forgetting here
    The breasts that were lit with life and the lips so near;
    Till the wizard willows waved in the wind and drew
    Me away from the fulness of love and down to you.
  • Our love was so vast that it filled the heavens up:
    But the soft white form I held was an empty cup,
    When the willows called me back to earth with their sigh,
    And we moved as shades through the deep that was you and I.

A Call of the Sidhe

  • Hush, not a whisper! Let your heart alone go dreaming.
    Dream unto dream may pass: deep in the heart alone
    Murmurs the Mighty One his solemn undertone.
  • Canst thou not see adown the silver cloudland streaming
    Rivers of faery light, dewdrop on dewdrop falling,
    Starfire of silver flames, lighting the dark beneath?
    And what enraptured hosts burn on the dusky heath!
    Come thou away with them, for Heaven to Earth is calling.
  • Drink: the immortal waters quench the spirit's longing.
    Art thou not now, bright one, all sorrow past, in elation,
    Made young with joy, grown brother-hearted with the vast,
    Whither thy spirit wending flits the dim stars past
    Unto the Light of Lights in burning adoration.


  • Image of beauty, when I gaze on thee,
    Trembling I waken to a mystery,
    How through one door we go to life or death
    By spirit kindled or the sensual breath.
  • The life which passes mourns its wasted hour.
    And, ah, to think how thin the veil that lies
    Between the pain of hell and paradise!

The Grey Eros

  • We are desert leagues apart;
    Time is misty ages now
    Since the warmth of heart to heart
    Chased the shadows from my brow.
  • Oh, I am so old, meseems
    I am next of kin to Time,
    The historian of her dreams
    From the long forgotten prime.
  • Though the dream of love may tire,
    In the ages long agone
    There were ruby hearts of fire —
    Ah, the daughters of the dawn!
  • Age is no more near than youth
    To the sceptre and the crown.
    Vain the wisdom, vain the truth;
    Do not lay thy rapture down.

By The Margin Of The Great Deep

  • When the breath of twilight blows to flame the misty skies,
    All its vaporous sapphire, violet glow, and silver gleam,
    With their magic flood me through the gateway of the eyes;
    I am one with the twilight's dream.
  • Aye, and deep and deep and deeper let me drink and draw,
    From the olden fountain more than light or peace or dream,
    Such primeval being as o'erfills the heart with awe,
    Growing one with its silent stream.

Three Counsellors

  • It was the fairy of the place,
    Moving within a little light,
    Who touched with dim and shadowy grace
    The conflict at its fever height.
    It seemed to whisper 'Quietness,'
    Then quietly itself was gone:
    Yet echoes of its mute caress
    Were with me as the years went on.
  • It was the warrior within
    Who called 'Awake, prepare for fight:
    Yet lose not memory in the din:
    Make of thy gentleness thy might:
    'Make of thy silence words to shake
    The long-enthroned kings of earth:
    Make of thy will the force to break
    Their towers of wantonness and mirth.'
  • It was the wise all-seeing soul
    Who counselled neither war nor peace:
    'Only be thou thyself that goal
    In which the wars of time shall cease.'


  • Search for the high austere and lonely way
    The Spirit moves in through eternities.
    Ah, in the soul what memories arise!
    And with what yearning inexpressible,
    Rising from long forgetfulness I turn
    To Thee, invisible, unrumoured, still:
    White for Thy whiteness all desires burn.
    Ah, with what longing once again I turn!


  • The offerings arise:
    Hazes of rainbow light,
    Pure crystal, blue, and gold,
    Through dreamland take their flight;
    And 'mid the sacrifice
    God moveth as of old.
    In miracles of fire
    He symbols forth his days;
    In gleams of crystal light
    Reveals what pure pathways
    Lead to the soul's desire,
    The silence of the height.


  • Of the Earth, of the Mother, my heart with her heart in accord:
    As I lie mid the cool green tresses that mantle her breast
    I begin with the grass once again to be bound to the Lord.
  • On the laugh of a child I am borne to the joy of the King.

Well, when all is said and done

  • Well, when all is said and done
    Best within my narrow way,
    May some angel of the sun
    Muse memorial o'er my clay:
    'Here was beauty all betrayed
    From the freedom of her state;
    From her human uses stayed
    On an idle rhyme to wait.
  • He has built his monument
    With the winds of time at strife,
    Who could have before he went
    Written in the book of life.
    To the stars from which he came
    Empty handed he goes home;
    He who might have wrought in flame
    Only traced upon the foam.'

By Still Waters (1906)

By Still Waters, Lyrical Poems Old And New By Æ, "Finished on All Soul's Eve, in the year 1906."
Oh Master of the Beautiful,
Creating us from hour to hour,
Give me this vision to the full
To see in lightest things thy power!
  • Silence and coolness now the earth enfold:
    Jewels of glittering green, long mists of gold,
    Hazes of nebulous silver veil the height,
    And shake in tremors through the shadowy night.
    Heard through the stillness, as in whispered words,
    The wandering God-guided wings of birds
    Ruffle the dark. The little lives that lie
    Deep hid in grass join in a long-drawn sigh
    More softly still; and unheard through the blue
    The falling of innumerable dew,
    Lifts with grey fingers all the leaves that lay
    Burned in the heat of the consuming day.
    • "A Summer Night"
  • Sacred thy laughter on the air,
    Holy thy lightest word that fell,
    Proud the innumerable hair
    That waved at the enchanter's spell.
    Oh Master of the Beautiful,
    Creating us from hour to hour,
    Give me this vision to the full
    To see in lightest things thy power!
    This vision give, no heaven afar,
    No throne, and yet I will rejoice,
    Knowing beneath my feet a star,
    Thy word in every wandering voice.
    • "Creation"
  • Only in clouds and dreams I felt those souls
    In the abyss, each fire hid in its clod,
    From which in clouds and dreams the spirit rolls
    Into the vast of God.
    • "Dusk"
  • Heart-hidden from the outer things I rose;
    The spirit woke anew in nightly birth
    Unto the vastness where forever glows
    The star-soul of the earth.
    There all alone in primal ecstasy,
    Within her depths where revels never tire,
    The Olden Beauty shines: each thought of me
    Is veined through with its fire.
    • "Night"
  • Still as the holy of holies breathes the vast
    Within its crystal depths the stars grow dim;
    Fire on the altar of the hills at last
    Burns on the shadowy rim.
    Moments that holds all moments; white upon
    The verge it trembles; then like mists of flowers
    Break from the fairy fountain of the dawn
    The hues of many hours.
    • "Dawn"
Each dream remembered is a burning-glass,
Where through to darkness from the Light of Lights
Its rays in splendour pass.
  • In day from some titanic past it seems
    As if a thread divine of memory runs;
    Born ere the Mighty One began his dreams,
    Or yet were stars and suns.
    • "Day"
I shine afar, till men may not divine
Whether it is the stars or the beloved
They follow with wrapt spirit.
  • Each dream remembered is a burning-glass,
    Where through to darkness from the Light of Lights
    Its rays in splendour pass.
    • "Day"
I can enchant the trees and rocks, and fill
The dumb brown lips of earth with mystery,
Make them reveal or hide the god.


  • I am the tender voice calling 'Away,'
    Whispering between the beatings of the heart,
    And inaccessible in dewy eyes
    I dwell, and all unkissed on lovely lips,
    Lingering between white breasts inviolate,
    And fleeting ever from the passionate touch,
    I shine afar, till men may not divine
    Whether it is the stars or the beloved
    They follow with wrapt spirit.
  • I can enchant the trees and rocks, and fill
    The dumb brown lips of earth with mystery,
    Make them reveal or hide the god. I breathe
    A deeper pity than all love, myself
    Mother of all, but without hands to heal:
    Too vast and vague, they know me not.
  • I am the heartbreak over fallen things,
    The sudden gentleness that stays the blow,
    And I am in the kiss that foemen give
    Pausing in battle, and in the tears that fall
    Over the vanquished foe, and in the highest;
    Among the Danaan gods, I am the last
    Council of mercy in their hearts where they
    Mete justice from a thousand starry thrones.


  • There were many burning hours on the heart-sweet tide,
    And we passed away from ourselves, forgetting all
    The immortal moods that faded, the god who died,
    Hastening away to the King on a distant call.
  • There were ruby dews were shed when the heart was riven,
    And passionate pleading and prayers to the dead we had wronged;
    And we passed away unremembering and unforgiven,
    Hastening away to the King for the peace we longed.

The Hour of the King

  • Who would think this quiet breather
    From the world had taken flight?
    Yet within the form we see there
    Wakes the golden King to-night.
  • When he wakes, the dreamy-hearted,
    He will know not whence he came,
    And the light from which he parted
    Be the seraph's sword of flame,
    And behind it hosts supernal
    Guarding the lost paradise,
    And the tree of life eternal
    From the weeping human eyes.

The Winds of Angus

  • The grey road whereupon we trod became as holy ground:
    The eve was all one voice that breathed its message with no sound:
    And burning multitudes pour through my heart, too bright, too blind,
    Too swift and hurried in their flight to leave their tale behind.
  • And sun and moon and starry fires and earth and air and sea
    Are creatures from the deep let loose who pause in ecstasy,
    Or wing their wild and heavenly way until again they find
    The ancient deep and fade therein, enraptured, bright and blind.


  • How shallow is this mere that gleams!
    Its depth of blue is from the skies;
    And from a distant sun the dreams
    And lovely light within your eyes.
  • We deem our love so infinite
    Because the Lord is everywhere,
    And love awakening is made bright
    And bathed in that diviner air.
  • We go on our enchanted way
    And deem our hours immortal hours,
    Who are but shadow kings that play
    With mirrored majesties and powers.

Natural Magic

  • We are tired who follow after
    Phantasy and truth that flies:
    You with only look and laughter
    Stain our hearts with richest dyes.
  • Pain and penitence forsaking,
    Hearts like cloisters dim and grey,
    By your laughter lured, awaking
    Join with you the dance of day.


  • I needed love no words could say;
    She drew me softly nigh her chair,
    My head upon her knees to lay,
    With cool hands that caressed my hair.
    She sat with hands as if to bless,
    And looked with grave, ethereal eyes;
    Ensouled by ancient quietness,
    A gentle priestess of the Wise.

A Woman's Voice

  • When the lips I breathed upon
    Asked for such love as equals claim
    I looked where all the stars were gone
    Burned in the day's immortal flame.
    "Come thou like yon great dawn to me
    From darkness vanquished, battles done:
    Flame unto flame shall flow and be
    Within thy heart and mine as one.

The Heroes

  • By many a dream of God and man my thoughts in shining flocks were led:
    But as I went through Patrick Street the hopes and prophecies were dead.
    The hopes and prophecies were dead: they could not blossom where the feet
    Walked amid rottenness, or where the brawling shouters stamped the street.
  • Where was the beauty that the Lord gave man when first he towered in pride?
    But one came by me at whose word the bitter condemnation died.
    His brows were crowned with thorns of light: his eyes were bright as one who sees
    The starry palaces shine o'er the sparkle of the heavenly seas.
    'Is it not beautiful?' he cried. Our Faery Land of Hearts' Desire
    Is mingled through the mire and mist, yet stainless keeps its lovely fire.

    The pearly phantoms with blown hair are dancing where the drunkards reel:
    The cloud frail daffodils shine out where filth is splashing from the heel.
    O sweet, and sweet, and sweet to hear, the melodies in rivers run:
    The rapture of their crowded notes is yet the myriad voice of One.
  • We cannot for forgetfulness forego the reverence due to them
    Who wear at times they do not guess the sceptre and the diadem.
    As bright a crown as this was theirs when first they from the Father sped;
    Yet look with deeper eyes and still the ancient beauty is not dead.
    He mingled with the multitude. I saw their brows were crowned and bright,
    A light around the shadowy heads, a shadow round the head of light.


  • Our true hearts are forever lonely:
    A wistfulness is in our thought:
    Our lights are like the dawns which only
    Seem bright to us and yet are not.
  • Something you see in me I wis not:
    Another heart in you I guess:
    A stranger's lips — but thine I kiss not,
    Erring in all my tenderness.
  • I sometimes think a mighty lover
    Takes every burning kiss we give:
    His lights are those which round us hover:
    For him alone our lives we live.
  • Ah, sigh for us whose hearts unseeing
    Point all their passionate love in vain,
    And blinded in the joy of being,
    Meet only when pain touches pain.


  • Here in these shades the Ancient knows itself, the Soul,
    And out of slumber waking starts unto the goal.
  • Dread deities, the giant powers that warred on men
    Grow tender brothers and gay children once again;
    Fades every hate away before the Mother's breast
    Where all the exiles of the heart return to rest.

The Man to the Angel

  • I have wept a million tears:
    Pure and proud one, where are thine,
    What the gain though all thy years
    In unbroken beauty shine?
    All your beauty cannot win
    Truth we learn in pain and sighs:
    You can never enter in
    To the circle of the wise.


  • He bent above: so still her breath
    What air she breathed he could not say,
    Whether in worlds of life or death:
    So softly ebbed away, away
    The life that had been light to him,
    So fled her beauty leaving dim
    The emptying chambers of his heart
    Thrilled only by the pang and smart,
    The dull and throbbing agony
    That suffers still, yet knows not why.
  • Love's immortality so blind
    Dreams that all things with it conjoined
    Must share with it immortal day:
    But not of this—but not of this—
    The touch, the eyes, the laugh, the kiss,
    Fall from it and it goes its way.
  • Ah, immortality so blind,
    To dream all things with it conjoined
    Must follow it from star to star
    And share with it immortal years.
    The memory, yearning, grief, and tears,
    Fall from it and it goes afar.
  • He felt an inner secret joy!
    A spirit of unfettered will
    Through light and darkness moving still
    Within the All to find its own,
    To be immortal and alone.

The Vesture of the Soul

  • I pitied one whose tattered dress
    Was patched, and stained with dust and rain;
    He smiled on me; I could not guess
    The viewless spirit's wide domain.
  • He said, 'The royal robe I wear
    Trails all along the fields of light:
    Its silent blue and silver bear
    For gems the starry dust of night.'
    'The breath of joy unceasingly
    Waves to and fro its folds starlit,
    And far beyond earth's misery
    I live and breathe the joy of it.'

The Twilight of Earth

  • The wonder of the world is o'er:
    The magic from the sea is gone:
    There is no unimagined shore,
    No islet yet to venture on.
    The Sacred Hazels' blooms are shed,
    The Nuts of Knowledge harvested.
  • Oh, what is worth this lore of age
    If time shall never bring us back
    Our battle with the gods to wage
    Reeling along the starry track.
    The battle rapture here goes by
    In warring upon things that die.
  • The power is ours to make or mar
    Our fate as on the earliest morn,
    The Darkness and the Radiance are
    Creatures within the spirit born.
    Yet, bathed in gloom too long, we might
    Forget how we imagined light.
    Not yet are fixed the prison bars:
    The hidden light the spirit owns
    If blown to flame would dim the stars
    And they who rule them from their thrones:
    And the proud sceptred spirits thence
    Would bow to pay us reverence.

The Dream

  • Let me dream only with my heart,
    Love first, and after see:
    Know thy diviner counterpart
    Before I kneel to thee.
    So in thy motions all expressed
    Thy angel I may view:
    I shall not on thy beauty rest,
    But Beauty's ray in you.

The Parting of Ways

A thousand ages onward led
Their joys and sorrows to that hour;
No wisdom weighed, no word was said,
For only what we were had power.
  • Aye, after victory, the crown;
    Yet through the fight no word of cheer;
    And what would win and what go down
    No word could help, no light make clear.
    A thousand ages onward led
    Their joys and sorrows to that hour;
    No wisdom weighed, no word was said,
    For only what we were had power.

The Virgin Mother

  • Who is that goddess to whom men should pray
    But her from whom their hearts have turned away,
    Out of whose virgin being they were born,
    Whose mother nature they have named in scorn
    Calling its holy substance common clay.
    Yet from this so despised earth was made
    The milky whiteness of those queens who swayed
    Their generations with a light caress,
    And from some image of whose loveliness
    The heart built up high heaven when it prayed.
  • Ah, when I think this earth on which we tread
    Hath borne these blossoms of the lovely dead,
    And made the living heart I love to beat,
    I look with sudden awe beneath my feet
    As you with erring reverence overhead.

Open letter to the Masters of Dublin (1913)

The relation of landlord and tenant is not an ideal one, but any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality.
The Irish Times (7 October 1913) Full text online
  • Sirs, I address this warning to you, the aristocracy of industry in this city, because, like all aristocracies, you tend to grow blind in long authority, and to be unaware that you and your class and its every action are being considered and judged day by day by those who have power to shake or overturn the whole social order, and whose restlessness in poverty today is making our industrial civilisation stir like a quaking bog. You do not seem to realise that your assumption that you are answerable to yourselves alone for your actions in the industries you control is one that becomes less and less tolerable in a world so crowded with necessitous life.
  • The relation of landlord and tenant is not an ideal one, but any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality. Despotisms endure while they are benevolent, and aristocracies while noblesse oblige is not a phrase to be referred to with a cynical smile. Even an oligarchy might be permanent if the spirit of human kindness, which harmonises all things otherwise incompatible, is present.
  • The conception of yourselves as altogether virtuous and wronged is, I assure you, not at all the one which onlookers hold of you. No doubt, you have rights on your side. No doubt, some of you suffered without just cause. But nothing which has been done to you cries aloud to Heaven for condemnation as your own actions.
  • You assumed that no other guarantees than those you asked were possible, and you determined deliberately, in cold anger, to starve out one third of the population of the city, to break the manhood of the men by the sight of the suffering of their wives and the hunger of their children. We read in the Dark Ages of the rack and thumb screw. But these iniquities were hidden and concealed from the knowledge of men in dungeons and torture chambers. Even in the Dark Ages, humanity could not endure the sight of such suffering, and it learnt of such misuse of power by slow degrees, through rumour, and when it was certain it razed its Bastilles to their foundations. It remained for the twentieth century and the capital city of Ireland to see an oligarchy of four hundred masters deciding openly upon starving one hundred thousand people, and refusing to consider any solution except that fixed by their pride. You, masters, asked men to do that which masters of labour in any other city in these islands had not dared to do. You insolently demanded of those men who were members of a trade union that they should resign from that union; and from those who were not members, you insisted on a vow that they would never join it.
  • Your insolence and ignorance of the rights conceded to workers universally in the modern world were incredible, and as great as your inhumanity. If you had between you collectively a portion of human soul as large as a threepenny bit, you would have sat night and day with the representatives of labour, trying this or that solution of the trouble, mindful of the women and children, who at least were innocent of wrong against you. But no! You reminded labour you could always have your three square meals a day while it went hungry.
  • Cry aloud to heaven for new souls. The souls you have got cast upon the screens of publicity appear like the horrid and writhing creatures enlarged from the insect world, and revealed to us by the cinematographer.
    You may succeed in your policy and ensure your own damnation by your victory. The men whose manhood you have broken will loathe you, and will always be brooding and scheming to strike a fresh blow. The children will be taught to curse you. The infant being moulded in the womb will have breathed into its starved body the vitality of hate. It is not they — it is you who are the blind Samsons pulling down the pillars of the social order.
  • There was autocracy in political life, and it was superseded by democracy. So surely will democratic power wrest from you the control of industry. The fate of you, the aristocracy of industry, will be as the fate of the aristocracy of land if you do not now show that you have some humanity still among you. Humanity abhors, above all things, a vacuum in itself, and your class will be cut off from humanity as the surgeon cuts the cancer and alien growth from the body. Be warned ere it is too late.

To the Memory of Some I knew Who are Dead and Who Loved Ireland (1917)

Also known as "Salutation"
  • Their dream had left me numb and cold,
    But yet my spirit rose in pride,
    Refashioning in burnished gold
    The images of those who died,
    Or were shut in the penal cell.

    Here's to you, Pearse, your dream not mine,
    But yet the thought, for this you fell,
    Has turned life's water into wine.
  • You who have died on Eastern hills
    Or fields of France as undismayed,
    Who lit with interlinked wills
    The long heroic barricade,
    You, too, in all the dreams you had,
    Thought of some thing for Ireland done.
  • Life cannot utter words more great
    Than life may meet by sacrifice,
    High words were equaled by high fate,
    You paid the price. You paid the price.
  • The hope lives on age after age,
    Earth with its beauty might be won
    For labor as a heritage,
    For this has Ireland lost a son.
  • Here's to you, men I never met,
    Yet hope to meet behind the veil,
    Thronged on some starry parapet,
    That looks down upon Innisfail,
    And sees the confluence of dreams
    That clashed together in our night,
    One river, born from many streams,
    Roll in one blaze of blinding light.

You Would Have Understood Me

  • You would have understood me, had you waited;
    I could have loved you, dear! as well as he:
    Had we not been impatient, dear! and fated
    Always to disagree.
  • What is the use of speech? Silence were fitter:
    Lest we should still be wishing things unsaid.
    Though all the words we ever spake were bitter,
    Shall I reproach you, dead?
  • Nay, let this earth, your portion, likewise cover
    All the old anger, setting us apart:
    Always, in all, in truth was I your lover;
    Always, I held your heart.
  • I have met other women who were tender,
    As you were cold, dear! with a grace as rare.
    Think you, I turned to them, or made surrender,
    I who had found you fair?
  • Late, late, I come to you, now death discloses
    Love that in life was not to be our part:
    On your low lying mound between the roses,
    Sadly I cast my heart.

Quotes about Russell

I felt immediate mutuality with him, this great elderly man bothering about me. But he bothered about all young poets. They were always welcome. ~ P. L. Travers
  • I read Æ’s poems when I was a child in Australia. Later I came to England to see my relatives. But before I did that, I sent a poem to Æ, who was then editing The Irish Statesman, and with all the arrogance of youth I didn’t put any letter with it explaining myself or saying that I was Irish or anything. I just sent it with a stamped addressed envelope.
    And sure enough, the stamped envelope came back. But in it was a check for two guineas and a letter that said, “I’m accepting your poem, which is a very good one, and I think it could not have been written by anyone who wasn’t Irish. If you’re ever coming to Ireland, be sure to come and see me.” Since I was going to Ireland, I did go to see him and was greatly welcomed and more poems were taken. I felt immediate mutuality with him, this great elderly man bothering about me. But he bothered about all young poets. They were always welcome.
    After our visit he said to me, “On your way back through Dublin you come and see me again.” I said, “Of course, I will.” But when the time arrived and I was back in Dublin, an awful timidity came upon me. I thought he was a great man and I shouldn’t take up his time; he was doing this for politesse. And so I refrained from going to see him and went back to England. Sometime later when I opened the door, there was Æ. He said to me, “You’re a faithless girl. You promised to see me on your way back through Dublin and you didn’t.” And he added, “I meant to give you my books then and, as you weren’t there, I brought them.” And there were all his books.
  • These men — Yeats, James Stephens, and the rest — had aristocratic minds. For them, the world was not fragmented. An idea did not suddenly grow … all alone and separate. For them, all things had long family trees. They saw nothing shameful or silly in myths and fairy stories, nor did they shovel them out of sight and some cupboard marked "Only For Children." They were always willing to concede that there was more things in heaven and earth than philosophy dreamed of. They allowed for the unknown. And, as you can imagine, I took great heart from this. It was Æ who showed me how to look and learn from one's own writing. "Popkins" he said once — he always called her just plain Popkins, whether deliberately mistaking the name or not I never knew. His humor was always subtle — "Popkins had she lived in another age, in the old times to which she certainly belongs, she would undoubtedly have had long golden tresses, a wreath of flowers in one hand, and perhaps a spear in the other. Her eyes would have been like the sea, her nose comely, and on her feet winged sandals. But, this age being the Kali Yuga, as the Indus call it — in our terms, the Iron Age — she comes in habiliments suited to it."
    • P. L. Travers, as quoted in Myth, Symbol, and Meaning in Mary Poppins: The Governess as Provocateur (2007) by Giorgia Grilli, p. 39
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