William Butler Yeats

Early Life

William Butler Yeats was born on June 13, 1865, at Sandymount in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. He was a brilliant and intelligent child of a legal practitioner and a famous painter, John Butler. His mother, Susan Mary Pollex, was the daughter of a wealthy merchant. He belonged to Anglo Irish Minority that had a say in the Irish elite class until the 17th century. He spent most of his early days in Silago with his family.


Since he belonged to a literate and highly artistic family, he attended the best institutions of his time. At first, he was homeschooled. His mother introduced him to Irish folktales while his father taught him geography, chemistry and history in their domestic settings. In 1877, he attended Godolphin School for four years, where he found difficulty in mathematics and languages. However, he was interested in science subjects. Later, in October 1881, he joined Dublin’s Erasmus Smith High School and studied literature and arts. It was in the same year he started writing poetry. His first poem appeared in a literary journal in 1885 in Dublin University Review, followed by his essay, ‘The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson’. He demonstrated the influenced of P. B. Shelly, William Blake, and Edmund Spencer. In fact, his first significant poem, ‘The Island of Statues’ reflects the styles of these great writers.

Tragic Love and Marriage

B. Yeats was a brilliant writer and successful poet, yet he remained unfortunate in his love. In 1889, he met Maud Gonne, a lady who inspired him and left a significant influence on his poetry and life. She used to admire his literary work but rejected his marriage proposals. Instead, she married Major John MacBride. This traumatic love experience left him heartbroken. However, after the death of Maud’s husband, Yeats tried his luck once more, but again she turned him down in 1917. Later, in the same year, he proposed Miss George Hyde-Less and got married. Despite having age differences, the couple had a successful marital life and two beautiful children.


  1. B. Yeats, a great Irish poet, died on the 28th of January in a hotel in a popular resort of Menton, France. During his visit to France, his health deteriorated and the local doctor prescribed him morphine. He died peacefully at the age of seventy-three and was buried two days later by a private and discreet funeral at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. His literary services earned him a lot of success that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
  2. He played a crucial role in Irish cultural revival and was actively involved in founding the Abbey Theatre and the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art.
  3. He began writing at the age of seventeen, and he published John Sherman and “Dhoya” in 1891.

Writing Career

William Butler Yeats started writing poetry at an early age. He became a published poet in 1885 when his first poem appeared in his school magazine. Later, he became a literary correspondent for two American newspapers. Among his correspondents at that time were William Morris, Oscar Wild, and G. B. Shaw. Also, he became a member of literary clubs in Dublin and England. He had had a unique literary taste and great poetic skills and his meetings with Ezra Pound and John Millington along with personal experiences, helped him shape his mature thoughts. However, his first book of poems, ‘The Wandering of Oisin and Other Poems’ appeared in 1889.

His collection ‘The Wind Among the Reeds’ published in 1899 and won the Royal Academy Prize. Besides poetry, his services for theatre are also praiseworthy. He was one of the founding fathers of the Irish National Theatre Society that was established in 1904. Thus, his successful writing career included a large number of masterpieces produced over the years.

His Style

After establishing his career first as a poet and then as a playwright, he added variety into the world of literature. He became prominent due to his artistic method of writing poetry and plays. He successfully devised Doctrine of the Mask to exhibit personal experiences and inner thoughts to the world without bothering about sentimentality. Marked by expressive style, allusive imagery, the complexity of thought, and symbolic structures, his poetry won global praise. However, his early works, ‘The Green Helmet’ and ‘Responsibility’ reflect the working of abstract thoughts with a blend of significant reasoning, direct approach and austere language. While his later masterpieces are written with the more personal touch and intense mediations. The recurring themes in most of his poems are loss, love, Relationship between arts and politics, modernism and role of fate in man’s life.

William Butler Yeats’s Works

  • Best Poems: He was an outstanding poet, some of his best poems include: The Second Coming, Sailing to Byzantium, Adam’s Curse, The Stolen Child, Death, Long-Legged Fly, Easter 1916, The Lake Isle of Innisfree and Among School Children.
  • Other Works: Besides poetry, he also wrote famous prose, plays and non-fiction pieces. Some of them include Mosada, The Land of Heart’s Desire, The Countless Cathleen, At the Hawk’s Well, The Resurrection and The Vision.

William Butler Yeats’s Impacts on Future Literature

William Butler Yeats has left deep imprints on the British as well as international literature. His indifferent style and way of expression won global acclaim. Also, he had a significant influence on poets and critics. T.S. Eliot also categorized him among those who are the part of an age which cannot be remembered without them. In fact, his uniqueness lies in amalgamating the past with the present and myths with the folks. He successfully presented his ideas in his writings that even today, writers try to imitate his unique style, considering him a beacon for writing plays and poetry.

Famous Quotes

  1. Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” (The Second Coming)
  2. “An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing.” (Sailing to Byzantium)
  1. It is love that I am seeking for,
    But of a beautiful. Unheard-of kind
    That is not in the world.” (The Shadowy Waters)