W.B. Yeats - Never Give All The Heart

Added 10 August 1999, Revised 7 October 2006

NEVER give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy. Kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

Interpretation by Michael Available Crist, EdD.

"Never Give All the Heart" reveals the cynicism of a spurned male lover. Having only recently been spurned myself, I can relate. However, I do not share Yeats' cynicism toward females.

While the poet would have us believe 'tis a woman, not a man, which is the tease (the only one which feigns love), men play that game as well, AND men play it as well! It is not femaleness nor maleness that stops short of total commitment, of giving away the heart, but Certainty which causes one-half to withhold, to commit partially, to keep part of self in reserve: That half of the love-ship becoming certain that the other is committed and is living for the us-ship is suddenly and predictably infatuated the less. It is human--females and males--nature to desire more that which is partially possessed and less that which is completely grasped.

I will say that I chuckle at Yeats' ironic explanation of the phenomenon of withholding: Those who would convince their lover of their love could not play the part and be convincing were they [actually] "deaf and dumb and blind with love." Clever!

go to "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" go to "The Stolen Child" go to "The Folly of Being Comforted"
go to "Adam's Curse" go to "The Second Coming" go to "When You Are Old"