William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Biography of William Butler Yeats

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13, 1865, William Butler Yeats was the son of a well-known Irish painter, John Butler Yeats. He spent his childhood in County Sligo, where his parents were raised, and in London. He returned to Dublin at the age of fifteen to continue his education and study painting, but quickly discovered he preferred poetry. Born into the Anglo-Irish landowning class, Yeats became involved with the Celtic Revival, a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period, which sought to promote the spirit of Ireland’s native heritage. Though Yeats never learned Gaelic himself, his writing at the turn of the century drew extensively from sources in Irish mythology and folklore. Also a potent influence on his poetry was the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, whom he met in 1889, a woman equally famous for her passionate nationalist politics and her beauty. Though she married another man in 1903 and grew apart from Yeats (and Yeats himself was eventually married to another woman, Georgie Hyde Lees), she remained a powerful figure in his poetry.

Yeats was deeply involved in politics in Ireland, and in the twenties, despite Irish independence from England, his verse reflected a pessimism about the political situation in his country and the rest of Europe, paralleling the increasing conservativism of his American counterparts in London, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. His work after 1910 was strongly influenced by Pound, becoming more modern in its concision and imagery, but Yeats never abandoned his strict adherence to traditional verse forms. He had a life-long interest in mysticism and the occult, which was off-putting to some readers, but he remained uninhibited in advancing his idiosyncratic philosophy, and his poetry continued to grow stronger as he grew older. Appointed a senator of the Irish Free State in 1922, he is remembered as an important cultural leader, as a major playwright (he was one of the founders of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin), and as one of the very greatest poets—in any language—of the century. W. B. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of seventy-three.

Poems by William Butler Yeats

  1. A Coat
  2. A Dialogue of Self and Soul
  3. A Drinking Song
  4. A Meditation in Time of War
  5. A Needle's Eye
  6. A Prayer for My Daughter
  7. Adam's Curse
  8. Among School Children
  9. An Irish Airman foresees his Death
  10. Beggar to Beggar Cried
  11. Byzantium
  12. Conjunctions
  13. Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop
  14. Down By the Salley Gardens
  15. Easter, 1916
  16. Ego Dominus Tuus
  17. Fallen Majesty
  18. From A Full Moon In March
  19. He and She
  20. He wishes his Beloved were Dead
  21. In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz
  22. Lapis Lazuli
  23. Love and the Bird
  24. Memory
  25. Meru
  26. Never give all the Heart
  27. No Second Troy
  28. On a Political Prisoner
  29. On being asked for a War Poem
  30. On Woman
  31. Paudeen
  32. Politics
  33. Reconciliation
  34. Running to Paradise
  35. Sailing to Byzantium
  36. September 1913
  37. Sixteen Dead Men
  38. The Cap and Bells
  39. The Circus Animals’ Desertion
  40. The Cold Heaven
  41. The Dawn
  42. The Everlasting Voices
  43. The Fascination of What’s Difficult
  44. The Fish
  45. The Fisherman
  46. The Four Ages of Man
  47. The Grey Rock
  48. The Hawk
  49. The Lake Isle of Innisfree
  50. The Magi
  51. The Mountain Tomb
  52. The Peacock
  53. The Phoenix
  54. The Player Queen
  55. The Realists
  56. The Rose Tree
  57. The Sad Shepherd
  58. The Scholars
  59. The Second Coming
  60. The Song of the Happy Shepherd
  61. The Song of Wandering Aengus
  62. The Sorrow of Love
  63. The Thorn Tree
  64. The Tower
  65. The Two Kings
  66. The Wild Swans at Coole
  67. The Witch
  68. There Is a Queen in China
  69. Three Songs to the Same Tune
  70. To a Child Dancing in the Wind
  71. To a Child Dancing upon the Shore
  72. To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing
  73. To a Shade
  74. To an Isle in the Water
  75. To Ireland in the Coming Times
  76. To the Rose upon the Rood of Time
  77. Under Ben Bulben
  78. When Helen Lived
  79. When You Are Old