As the title of this short Yeats poem makes clear, the great Irish poet W. B. Yeats offers the would-be lover some advice: don’t dive headlong into love or infatuation, for your beloved won’t thank you for it: never give all the heart. It’s best to keep a little passion back: ‘He that made this knows all the cost, / For he gave all his heart and lost.’
Never Give All the Heart
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.
If you enjoyed Yeats’s ‘Never Give All the Heart’, you might also enjoy our pick of Yeats’s greatest poems.