William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

A Coat - Poem by William Butler Yeats

I MADE my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.

Comments about A Coat by William Butler Yeats

  • whiteangel (8/19/2018 5:19:00 AM)

    poem of deep invocation (Report)Reply

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  • Humane Engineer (7/28/2018 12:57:00 PM)

    Poem sounds like Yeats laments an epic song he wrote, filled with metaphors and allusion, misused. (Report)Reply

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  • marta (4/29/2018 4:22:00 PM)

    wtheck- what is with the ads? ? ? (Report)Reply

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  • Lesley (2/25/2018 8:35:00 AM)

    To try to interpret another’s work is useful only as a practice. The artist can never truly understand his or her own work, if truly art. We can learn more about a person, hypothetically, by studying their physical nakedness. From art we learn more about ourselves than we could ever know about another soul. (Report)Reply

    Johnthebarman(6/16/2018 2:21:00 AM)

    Thanks for that comment. It’s true. A good poem. When we do walk naked we are soon wrapped in the boring perceptions of the world. I will return to the imagination.

    Let imagination loose:

    THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
    Her poetry, dancing upon the shore...

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  • Douglas Scotney (1/18/2015 5:27:00 PM)

    what? For the poet more value in doing nothing than in doing something that gets abused? The price of having a name.. (Report)Reply

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  • Eric Ericson (11/17/2014 3:58:00 AM)


    His song a coat that other fools took and made their own, and he would rather go about naked

    Poetry is a window to one's soul, to grasp this is to understand poetry

    6 person liked.
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  • Birgitta Abimbola HeikkaBirgitta Abimbola Heikka (4/2/2014 9:30:00 PM)

    Love the ending of this poem: For there is more enterprise in walking naked. Always associated nakedness with shame. Never thought of it in a different way. (Report)Reply

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  • Ru Con (2/2/2014 10:21:00 PM)

    I think he's talking about one's persona, protective outer personality. But then people can take it, leaving the person exposed. So I guess he's then saying, screw it, better to be yourself, be naked and be comfortable with it. (Report)Reply

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  • Daniel RichmondDaniel Richmond (1/18/2014 7:47:00 PM)

    An amazing thought process behind this poem. Simple, biting and fun. I wonder how long it took to write. (Report)Reply

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  • Skywee Gh (1/18/2014 7:46:00 PM)

    lol....kikiki.more enterprice in walkin' naked...like a coat your poem is a coat..yeah.thanks. (Report)Reply

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  • * Sunprincess * (1/18/2014 5:07:00 PM)

    .............such a prized possession shouldn't be given up so easily... (Report)Reply

    Stephen W(7/4/2015 3:51:00 PM)

    I think he is talking about the pretentious style of his youth being copied by inferior imitators. Now he prefers to write from the heart, rather than with self-conscious style.

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  • Karen Sinclair (1/18/2014 10:00:00 AM)

    Intriguing.... this has a dreamlike quality but there is something disturbing here to me...the song is placed object like and as if he gifts his song, to swaddle it, almost protect it....mythological embroidery suggests to me that he hoped to protect it and distract others.. its almost like he visualised the title as the coat...heel to throat? overprotective, no way in...fools caught it/ Im guessing stole... as though they wrought rigid wrote i think a play on words here...song... let them take it, like bidding an old friend goodbye
    more enterprise in walking naked, i think its almost like he just accepted it and realised if he just let go it was his release and he felt they would hopefully feel guilty, smothered in the weight of the coat

    sorry if i waffle im just trying to make sense of this...

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  • Allison Helman (7/3/2012 10:57:00 PM)

    I've read five W. B. Yeats poems tonight and, It is strange to say but, I don’t believe Mr. Yeats’ poetry can be fully understood for at least a century. I believe he made use of poetic devices beyond the current intellectual boundaries of literature. It’s not stylistic, it’s graphed on a different grid and can only be partially appreciated by what can be plotted in ours. I find it jarring that for all my schooling, no instructor read us Yeats. Maybe this is one reason why but, how I wish they had! I see a lack in my life. (Report)Reply

    Stephen W(10/27/2014 7:09:00 PM)

    Ellen Lu's explanation further down this page seems perfectly cogent to me. He's getting rid of the mythology wrappings of his poetry because he no longer believes in it, and too many people have copied it anyway. Simple.

    12 person liked.
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  • Bernadette Wilson (1/18/2011 12:07:00 PM)

    I found the ~POEM~ was very, 'soothing'~ with lost's of warmth, and melody. (Report)Reply

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  • Andile Nozibusiso Mtshali (1/18/2011 3:57:00 AM)

    This is actually in response to an argument between Yeats and George Moore who accused Yeats of being a poser and pretending that he was from a higher social order than he really was. So this is Yeats saying he doesn\'t care about his outward appearance and status, he is sloughing it all off, ridding himself of his coat. (Report)Reply

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  • Praneetha PereraPraneetha Perera (1/18/2011 12:30:00 AM)

    I like poems written by simple words, then only the others can understand what you have written (Report)Reply

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  • Kevin StrawKevin Straw (1/19/2010 7:18:00 AM)

    Pruchnicki - how could anyone “take Yeats’ songs as their own”? You don’t make sense old chap. As for “naked” - if it means anything, it does not mean what you say it does. I cannot see Yeats “dissing” (do you have that word?) his early poetry as bad and dishonest, which is what you are suggesting. He says there is more enterprise in walking naked, which is something else. But what it is he does not say. It could mean he will write no more poetry (after all, the contemporary reader reading this poem, was not to know of what was to come.) . (Report)Reply

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  • Michael Pruchnicki (1/18/2010 2:27:00 PM)

    Even the most astute reader can fall flat on his face when he misreads a word that didn't make any real sense when he first read it, but that he ignored in his eagerness to explicate the poem's meaning. I read 'from head to throat' for Yeats'
    'from heel to throat.' Of course, in 1914 the word 'coat' meant overcoat or long coat, not the sport coat or jacket that I had in mind. And of course, Yeats' imagery is on the money! Maybe I do need a new pair of spectacles? Just by chance today, I was leafing through my paperback copy of 'Selected Poems and Four Plays, ' when there it was on pp.49-50, at the very top of the page - Out of old mythologies /From heel to throat'!

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  • Michael Pruchnicki (1/18/2010 9:18:00 AM)

    My goodness, he said, look at all the far-fetched comments posted today! Please consider the following version I discovered by doing a little research..

    I made my song a coat
    covered with embroideries
    out of old mythologies
    from head to throat.

    But the fools caught it,
    wore it in the world's eyes
    as though they'd wrought it.

    Song, let them take it,
    for there's more enterprise
    in walking naked.
    Three sentences that are easily scanned by a reader. Yeats creates a metaphor for his songs (his verse!) in a coat of many colors that cover from head to throat.
    From his intellect and imagination, Yeats says, he has written poems that are meant to be sung, perhaps in celebration of all those mythologies that Yeats studied and admired so much. The second sentence (stanza?) refers to the popularity of his verse that the ignorant or undiscerning take as their own. Finally, the apostrophe asserts that walking naked, exposing one's self to the reader, is a better and more honest tack to take than hiding behind the golden images of myths!

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  • Kevin StrawKevin Straw (1/18/2010 6:13:00 AM)

    Another badly-presented poem - surely it isn't too much to ask for someone to get this feature right.

    As for the poem, what do lines 4 to 6 mean? And how can there be “more enterprise/In walking naked” than in writing song? The poem is wonderfully made, but I feel it needs too much unstitching. A poem should carry its full meaning in itself – some poems may be hard to interpret, but their meaning should be entirely expressed in the poem’s words.

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Read poems about / on: june, song, home, world, dog

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Poem Edited: Friday, April 1, 2011

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