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