William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865 - January 28, 1939)
Born: 13th June, 1865
Died: 28th January, 1939
Nationality: Irish
Profession/Occupation: Poet
Region: Sandymount, Ireland, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Literary movement: Irish Literary Revival, Realism
Notable works: "The Wild Swans at Coole", "Leda and the Swan", "Easter 1916", "The Second Coming", "The Countess Cathleen", "Sailing to Byzantium", "The Tower", "The Wanderings of Oisin, and Other Poems", "The Winding Stair", "At the Hawk's Well"
Types of literature: Poems

William Butler Yeats Facts

Biography

William Butler Yeats, (born June 13, 1865, Sandymount, Dublin, Ireland—died January 28, 1939, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France), Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Yeats’s father, John Butler Yeats, was a barrister who eventually became a portrait painter. His mother, formerly Susan Pollexfen, was the daughter of a prosperous merchant in Sligo, in western Ireland. Through both parents Yeats (pronounced “Yates”) claimed kinship with various Anglo-Irish Protestant families who are mentioned in his work. Normally, Yeats would have been expected to identify with his Protestant tradition—which represented a powerful minority among Ireland’s predominantly Roman Catholic population—but he did not. Indeed, he was separated from both historical traditions available to him in Ireland—from the Roman Catholics, because he could not share their faith, and from the Protestants, because he felt repelled by their concern for material success. Yeats’s best hope, he felt, was to cultivate a tradition more profound than either the Catholic or the Protestant—the tradition of a hidden Ireland that existed largely in the anthropological evidence of its surviving customs, beliefs, and holy places, more pagan than Christian.

In 1867, when Yeats was only two, his family moved to London, but he spent much of his boyhood and school holidays in Sligo with his grandparents. This country—its scenery, folklore, and supernatural legend—would colour Yeats’s work and form the setting of many of his poems. In 1880 his family moved back to Dublin, where he attended the high school. In 1883 he attended the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, where the most important part of his education was in meeting other poets and artists.

Meanwhile, Yeats was beginning to write: his first publication, two brief lyrics, appeared in the Dublin University Review in 1885. When the family moved back to London in 1887, Yeats took up the life of a professional writer. He joined the Theosophical Society, whose mysticism appealed to him because it was a form of imaginative life far removed from the workaday world. The age of science was repellent to Yeats; he was a visionary, and he insisted upon surrounding himself with poetic images. He began a study of the prophetic books of William Blake, and this enterprise brought him into contact with other visionary traditions, such as the Platonic, the Neoplatonic, the Swedenborgian, and the alchemical.

Yeats was already a proud young man, and his pride required him to rely on his own taste and his sense of artistic style. He was not boastful, but spiritual arrogance came easily to him. His early poems, collected in The Wanderings of Oisin, and Other Poems (1889), are the work of an aesthete, often beautiful but always rarefied, a soul’s cry for release from circumstance.

Yeats quickly became involved in the literary life of London. He became friends with William Morris and W.E. Henley, and he was a cofounder of the Rhymers’ Club, whose members included his friends Lionel Johnson and Arthur Symons. In 1889 Yeats met Maud Gonne, an Irish beauty, ardent and brilliant. From that moment, as he wrote, “the troubling of my life began.” He fell in love with her, but his love was hopeless. Maud Gonne liked and admired him, but she was not in love with him. Her passion was lavished upon Ireland; she was an Irish patriot, a rebel, and a rhetorician, commanding in voice and in person. When Yeats joined in the Irish nationalist cause, he did so partly from conviction, but mostly for love of Maud. When Yeats’s play Cathleen ni Houlihan was first performed in Dublin in 1902, she played the title role. It was during this period that Yeats came under the influence of John O’Leary, a charismatic leader of the Fenians, a secret society of Irish nationalists.

After the rapid decline and death of the controversial Irish leader Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891, Yeats felt that Irish political life lost its significance. The vacuum left by politics might be filled, he felt, by literature, art, poetry, drama, and legend. The Celtic Twilight (1893), a volume of essays, was Yeats’s first effort toward this end, but progress was slow until 1898, when he met Augusta Lady Gregory, an aristocrat who was to become a playwright and his close friend. She was already collecting old stories, the lore of the west of Ireland. Yeats found that this lore chimed with his feeling for ancient ritual, for pagan beliefs never entirely destroyed by Christianity. He felt that if he could treat it in a strict and high style, he would create a genuine poetry while, in personal terms, moving toward his own identity. From 1898, Yeats spent his summers at Lady Gregory’s home, Coole Park, County Galway, and he eventually purchased a ruined Norman castle called Thoor Ballylee in the neighbourhood. Under the name of the Tower, this structure would become a dominant symbol in many of his latest and best poems.

In 1899 Yeats asked Maud Gonne to marry him, but she declined. Four years later she married Major John MacBride, an Irish soldier who shared her feeling for Ireland and her hatred of English oppression: he was one of the rebels later executed by the British government for their part in the Easter Rising of 1916. Meanwhile, Yeats devoted himself to literature and drama, believing that poems and plays would engender a national unity capable of transfiguring the Irish nation. He (along with Lady Gregory and others) was one of the originators of the Irish Literary Theatre, which gave its first performance in Dublin in 1899 with Yeats’s play The Countess Cathleen. To the end of his life Yeats remained a director of this theatre, which became the Abbey Theatre in 1904. In the crucial period from 1899 to 1907, he managed the theatre’s affairs, encouraged its playwrights (notably John Millington Synge), and contributed many of his own plays. Among the latter that became part of the Abbey Theatre’s repertoire are The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894), Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), The Hour Glass (1903), The King’s Threshold (1904), On Baile’s Strand (1905), and Deirdre (1907).

Yeats published several volumes of poetry during this period, notably Poems (1895) and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899), which are typical of his early verse in their dreamlike atmosphere and their use of Irish folklore and legend. But in the collections In the Seven Woods (1903) and The Green Helmet (1910), Yeats slowly discarded the Pre-Raphaelite colours and rhythms of his early verse and purged it of certain Celtic and esoteric influences. The years from 1909 to 1914 mark a decisive change in his poetry. The otherworldly, ecstatic atmosphere of the early lyrics has cleared, and the poems in Responsibilities: Poems and a Play (1914) show a tightening and hardening of his verse line, a more sparse and resonant imagery, and a new directness with which Yeats confronts reality and its imperfections.

In 1917 Yeats published The Wild Swans at Coole. From then onward he reached and maintained the height of his achievement—a renewal of inspiration and a perfecting of technique that are almost without parallel in the history of English poetry. The Tower (1928), named after the castle he owned and had restored, is the work of a fully accomplished artist; in it, the experience of a lifetime is brought to perfection of form. Still, some of Yeats’s greatest verse was written subsequently, appearing in The Winding Stair (1929). The poems in both of these works use, as their dominant subjects and symbols, the Easter Rising and the Irish civil war; Yeats’s own tower; the Byzantine Empire and its mosaics; Plato, Plotinus, and Porphyry; and the author’s interest in contemporary psychical research. Yeats explained his own philosophy in the prose work A Vision (1925, revised version 1937); this meditation upon the relation between imagination, history, and the occult remains indispensable to serious students of Yeats despite its obscurities.

In 1913 Yeats spent some months at Stone Cottage, Sussex, with the American poet Ezra Pound acting as his secretary. Pound was then editing translations of the nō plays of Japan, and Yeats was greatly excited by them. The nō drama provided a framework of drama designed for a small audience of initiates, a stylized, intimate drama capable of fully using the resources offered by masks, mime, dance, and song and conveying—in contrast to the public theatre—Yeats’s own recondite symbolism. Yeats devised what he considered an equivalent of the nō drama in such plays as Four Plays for Dancers (1921), At the Hawk’s Well (first performed 1916), and several others.

In 1917 Yeats asked Iseult Gonne, Maud Gonne’s daughter, to marry him. She refused. Some weeks later he proposed to Miss George Hyde-Lees and was accepted; they were married in 1917. A daughter, Anne Butler Yeats, was born in 1919, and a son, William Michael Yeats, in 1921.

In 1922, on the foundation of the Irish Free State, Yeats accepted an invitation to become a member of the new Irish Senate: he served for six years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Now a celebrated figure, he was indisputably one of the most significant modern poets. In 1936 his Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892–1935, a gathering of the poems he loved, was published. Still working on his last plays, he completed The Herne’s Egg, his most raucous work, in 1938. Yeats’s last two verse collections, New Poems and Last Poems and Two Plays, appeared in 1938 and 1939 respectively. In these books many of his previous themes are gathered up and rehandled, with an immense technical range; the aged poet was using ballad rhythms and dialogue structure with undiminished energy as he approached his 75th year.

Yeats died in January 1939 while abroad. Final arrangements for his burial in Ireland could not be made, so he was buried at Roquebrune, France. The intention of having his body buried in Sligo was thwarted when World War II began in the autumn of 1939. In 1948 his body was finally taken back to Sligo and buried in a little Protestant churchyard at Drumcliffe, as he specified in “Under Ben Bulben,” in his Last Poems, under his own epitaph: “Cast a cold eye/On life, on death./Horseman, pass by!”

Had Yeats ceased to write at age 40, he would probably now be valued as a minor poet writing in a dying Pre-Raphaelite tradition that had drawn renewed beauty and poignancy for a time from the Celtic revival. There is no precedent in literary history for a poet who produces his greatest work between the ages of 50 and 75. Yeats’s work of this period takes its strength from his long and dedicated apprenticeship to poetry; from his experiments in a wide range of forms of poetry, drama, and prose; and from his spiritual growth and his gradual acquisition of personal wisdom, which he incorporated into the framework of his own mythology.

Yeats’s mythology, from which arises the distilled symbolism of his great period, is not always easy to understand, nor did Yeats intend its full meaning to be immediately apparent to those unfamiliar with his thought and the tradition in which he worked. His own cyclic view of history suggested to him a recurrence and convergence of images, so that they become multiplied and enriched; and this progressive enrichment may be traced throughout his work. Among Yeats’s dominant images are Leda and the Swan; Helen and the burning of Troy; the Tower in its many forms; the sun and moon; the burning house; cave, thorn tree, and well; eagle, heron, sea gull, and hawk; blind man, lame man, and beggar; unicorn and phoenix; and horse, hound, and boar. Yet these traditional images are continually validated by their alignment with Yeats’s own personal experience, and it is this that gives them their peculiarly vital quality. In Yeats’s verse they are often shaped into a strong and proud rhetoric and into the many poetic tones of which he was the master. All are informed by the two qualities which Yeats valued and which he retained into old age—passion and joy.

Top 68 William Butler Yeats quotes

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.
Hot
Iron
Make
Strike
Striking
Till
Wait
But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Because
Being
Dreams
Feet
Only
Poor
Softly
Spread
Tread
You
Your
One should not lose one's temper unless one is certain of getting more and more angry to the end.
Angry
Certain
End
Getting
Lose
More
More and more
Should
Temper
Unless
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
Education
Filling
Fire
Lighting
People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.
Best
Best part
End
Lean
Logic
Mind
Part
People
Philosophy
Rational
Starving
Who
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
Dance
Dancer
How
Know
Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.
Abyss
Battle
Courage
Die
Entering
Field
Himself
Honour
Man
May
Reckless
Should
Show
Those
I heard the old, old, men say 'all that's beautiful drifts away, like the waters.'
Away
Beautiful
Heard
Like
Men
Old
Old men
Say
Waters
Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.
Begins
Ends
Friends
Glory
Had
Man
Most
Say
Think
Where
Books are but waste paper unless we spend in action the wisdom we get from thought - asleep. When we are weary of the living, we may repair to the dead, who have nothing of peevishness, pride, or design in their conversation.
Action
Asleep
Books
Conversation
Dead
Design
Get
Living
May
Nothing
Paper
Pride
Repair
Spend
The years like great black oxen tread the world, and God, the herdsman goads them on behind, and I am broken by their passing feet.
Am
Behind
Black
Broken
Feet
God
Great
I am
Like
Passing
Them
Tread
World
Years
Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing.
Growing
Growth
Happiness
Happy
Neither
Nor
Pleasure
Simply
Thing
Virtue
Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.
Before
Conquering
Endured
Energy
Every
Fund
Makes
Moral
New
Represents
Right
Soul
Spirit
Stronger
In dreams begins responsibility.
Begins
Dreams
Responsibility
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.
Communicate
Language
Like
Man
People
Think
Wise
Wise man
Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.
Bag
Cord
Dreams
Little
Must
Round
Take
Will
Wrap
You
This melancholy London - I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.
Air
Compelled
Feels
Imagine
Like
London
Lost
Melancholy
Passing
Perpetually
Sometimes
Souls
Streets
Them
I am still of opinion that only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mood - sex and the dead.
Am
Dead
I am
Interest
Least
Mood
Only
Opinion
Serious
Sex
Still
Studious
Topics
Two
Choose your companions from the best; Who draws a bucket with the rest soon topples down the hill.
Best
Bucket
Choose
Companions
Down
Draws
Hill
Rest
Soon
Who
Your
The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober.
About
Drunk
Men
Sober
Some
Some men
Thing
Worst
Worst thing
An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick, unless soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress.
Aged
Clap
Coat
Dress
Every
Hands
Louder
Man
Mortal
Sing
Soul
Stick
Thing
Unless
Those that I fight I do not hate, those that I guard I do not love.
Fight
Guard
Hate
Love
Those
I think you can leave the arts, superior or inferior, to the conscience of mankind.
Arts
Conscience
I think
Inferior
Leave
Mankind
Superior
Think
You
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Best
Conviction
Full
Intensity
Lack
Passionate
While
Worst
A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Been
Does
Has-been
Hours
Line
Maybe
Moment
Naught
Our
Seem
Stitching
Take
Thought
Us
I balanced all, brought all to mind, the years to come seemed waste of breath, a waste of breath the years behind, in balance with this life, this death.
Balance
Balanced
Behind
Breath
Brought
Come
Death
Life
Mind
Seemed
Waste
Years
Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste.
Ambassador
Connection
Designs
I think
May
National
Postage
Silent
Stamps
Taste
Think
And say my glory was I had such friends.
Friends
Glory
Had
Say
When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.
Book
Deep
Down
Dream
Eyes
Fire
Full
Gray
Had
Look
Old
Once
Read
Shadows
A pity beyond all telling is hid in the heart of love.
Beyond
Heart
Hid
Love
Pity
Telling
I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swings his lantern higher.
A good man
Bad
Bad man
Believe
Believed
Best
Enough
Even
Every
Every man
Find
Good
Good man
Higher
Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice?
Heart
Long
Make
May
Sacrifice
Stone
Suffice
Too
The only business of the head in the world is to bow a ceaseless obeisance to the heart.
Bow
Business
Ceaseless
Head
Heart
Only
World
I think it better that in times like these a poet's mouth be silent, for in truth we have no gift to set a statesman right.
Better
Gift
I think
Like
Mouth
Poet
Right
Set
Silent
Statesman
Think
Times
Truth
To be born woman is to know - although they do not speak of it at school - women must labor to be beautiful.
Although
Beautiful
Born
Know
Labor
Must
School
Speak
Woman
Women
The creations of a great writer are little more than the moods and passions of his own heart, given surnames and Christian names, and sent to walk the earth.
Christian
Creations
Earth
Given
Great
Great writer
Heart
His
Little
Moods
More
Names
Own
Passions
We are happy when for everything inside us there is a corresponding something outside us.
Corresponding
Everything
Happy
Inside
Outside
Something
Us
The light of lights looks always on the motive, not the deed, the shadow of shadows on the deed alone.
Alone
Always
Deed
Light
Lights
Looks
Motive
Shadow
Shadows
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Because
Dreams
Softly
Tread
You
I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.
Almost
Anybody
Anything
Beautiful
Does
Dream
Expects
I wonder
Instead
Like
Opera
Oxford
People
Place
I have known more men destroyed by the desire to have wife and child and to keep them in comfort than I have seen destroyed by drink and harlots.
Child
Comfort
Desire
Destroyed
Drink
Keep
Known
Men
More
Seen
Than
Them
Wife
Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.
Happens
Life
Life is a
Long
Never
Preparation
Something
An intellectual hatred is the worst.
Hatred
Intellectual
Worst
Accursed who brings to light of day the writings I have cast away.
Away
Brings
Cast
Day
Light
Who
Writings
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
Make
Others
Ourselves
Out
Poetry
Quarrel
Rhetoric
I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above; those that I fight I do not hate, those that I guard I do not love.
Above
Among
Clouds
Fate
Fight
Guard
Hate
Know
Love
Meet
Shall
Somewhere
Those
Nor dread nor hope attend a dying animal; a man awaits his end dreading and hoping all.
Animal
Attend
Awaits
Dread
Dying
End
His
Hope
Hoping
Man
Nor
You know what the Englishman's idea of compromise is? He says, Some people say there is a God. Some people say there is no God. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements.
Between
Compromise
Englishman
God
He
Idea
Know
Lies
People
People say
Say
Says
Some
Some people
Irish poets, learn your trade, sing whatever is well made, scorn the sort now growing up all out of shape from toe to top.
All-out
Growing
Growing up
Irish
Learn
Made
Now
Out
Poets
Scorn
Shape
Sing
Sort
Toe
Cast your mind on other days that we in coming days may be still the indomitable Irishry.
Cast
Coming
Days
Indomitable
May
Mind
Other
Still
Your

William Butler Yeats books

The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (Wordsworth Poetry Library)

The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (Wordsworth Poetry Library)

Irish Folk and Fairy Tales

Irish Folk and Fairy Tales

Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland: Slip-cased Edition

Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland: Slip-cased Edition

The Collected Works of William Butler Yeats - Complete 8 Volumes

The Collected Works of William Butler Yeats - Complete 8 Volumes

Yeats's Poetry, Drama, and Prose (Norton Critical Editions)

Yeats's Poetry, Drama, and Prose (Norton Critical Editions)

Selected Poems And Four Plays of William Butler Yeats

Selected Poems And Four Plays of William Butler Yeats

Poems (Everyman's Library Classics)

Poems (Everyman's Library Classics)

The Yeats Reader: A Portable Compendium of Poetry, Drama, and Prose

The Yeats Reader: A Portable Compendium of Poetry, Drama, and Prose

The Collected Poetry of William Butler Yeats

The Collected Poetry of William Butler Yeats

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats by William Butler Yeats (1996-09-09)

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats by William Butler Yeats (1996-09-09)

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

The Secret Rose

The Secret Rose

William Butler Yeats essays

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Mysticism Of The Second Coming English Literature Essay
William Butler Yeats is often considered one of the best possible poets in the British language. He was created in Dublin, Ireland to Irish-Protestant parents. His father was a painter who affected the poets' thoughts about skill. Yeats's mother shared with him her involvement in folklore, fairies, and astrology as well as her love of Ireland. He acquired the Nobel Award in literature. Yeats passed on in France in 1939. William Butler Yeats started out his poem, "The Second Approaching" in 1919 right after World War One. It is important to notice that Yeats did not believe in Christianity. Magic..
Dissertation on The Article writer Who Was Irish By Bill Butler Yeats
The Copy writer Who was IrishWilliam Butler Yeats was an Irish writer whose work was simply affected by the nation of Ireland and it is ancient tales. He was extremely involved in Ireland in europe and had an association to the nation that not various had, which usually created a variation between his work and more. Yeats was also linked to fighting to get an Irish free-state, which can be where he actually got to display his Irish nationalism. Basically due to his Irish id and involvement in Irish politics, William Butler Yeats ' work was molded by his Irish environment and traditions.William..
An Analysis of Blake's The Wild Swans at Coole Essay
An Analysis of Blake's "The Wild Swans at Coole""The Untamed Swans for Coole" is actually a poem that deals with the aging process of William Butler Yeats. It is a deeply personal composition that explores the cycle of life through character. The poem is set in Coole Playground in autumn, which is located on Lady Gregory's estate. The poet is on or perhaps near the shoreline of a large pond, and is noticing the swans. It has been nineteen years because the first time he came to this kind of place, and it is on this check out that this individual begins to understand that..
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