William Butler Yeats’s Life
An Irish romantic poet and leading figure of twentieth century literature, William Butler Yeats was born in Sandymount, County Dublin, on June 13, 1865. His father, John Butler Yeats, was a linen merchant, a soldier, and a popular painter. His mother, Susan Mary Pollexfen, belonged to a rich merchant family of Sligo. Shortly after William Yeats’s birth, his family moved to the Pollexfen home in County Sligo, and stayed with his maternal family. Gradually, the surrounding environment there became the young poet’s spiritual home. William came from a highly creative and artistic family; his brother Jack was a well-known painter, and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth played their role in the Arts and Crafts Movement. His family relocated to England to provide financial assistance to their father, John, to further his artistic career.
Initially, Yeats’s parents taught their children at home. At the age of twelve, William attended the Godolphin school for four years. Academically, he was not a brilliant student. Although he faced difficulties in languages and mathematics, he was good in Latin. William and his family stayed in England until 1880, but then moved back to Dublin due to some financial problems. William resumed his studies at Erasmus Smith High School, located near his father’s studio. This is where he would spend his leisure time, and he got acquainted with the well-known writers and artists of the city. It was at this time that William became eagerly interested in poetry and began writing. Subsequently, the Dublin University Review acknowledged his talent and published a collection of his first poems in 1885.
William continued his studies at the Metropolitan School of Art in Thomas Street from 1884 to 1886. He was only seventeen when he wrote his first popular works under the influence of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edmund Spencer, and William Blake. His family spent some time in Dublin, and again moved to London in 1887. In London, William co-founded a club with Ernest Rhys based on London poets. They called it the Rhymers’ Club, and would regularly meet to recite their poems. After joining the company of literary figures, William felt encouraged and published his first notable poem, “The Isle of Statues.” From this point on, he began writing on a regular basis.
In 1889, Yeats met a zealous Irish Nationalist and English heiress named Maud Gonne. Gradually, William developed an intense infatuation with her outspoken manner and beauty. She later played a great role in his poetry. William proposed to her three times, but each time she refused; she married an Irish Nationalist instead. Heartbroken, William indulged in many love affairs but for a long time nothing lasted. Eventually, at the age of fifty-one, he married a twenty-five-year-old girl, Georgie Hyde Lees. In spite of the age difference, their marriage worked, and they had two children. Unfortunately, William’s health started deteriorating in 1925, and he died in a hotel in France on January 28, 1939.
William Butler Yeats’s Works
The first popular poem of William Yeats was “The Isle of Statues.” He composed his first solo work “Mosada: A Dramatic Poem” in 1886, after which he published “The Wanderings of Oisin and Other poems” in 1889. He also wrote poems with mystical and esoteric themes as well as with the subject of love and published them under the title of “Poems” in 1895. His other collections of poetry include “The Secret Rose,” “In the Seven Woods,” “The Tower,” and “The Winding Stair and Other Poems.” Yeats also wrote plays, including the popular plays “The Countess Cathleen” and “The Land of Heart’s Desire.”
William Butler Yeats’s Style and Popular Poems
William Butler Yeats was a prominent symbolist poet of the twentieth century; he made extensive use of symbolic structures and imagery throughout his poetry. He often exploited free-verse form for his purposes. His early poetry was based on Irish myths, but his later work drew heavily upon contemporary issues including the Irish Civil War. The popular poems of Yeats include “The Second Coming,” “A Coat,” “A Last Confession,” “A Dream of Death,” “Father and Child,” “Lullaby,” “Consolation,” “A Prayer for My Daughter,” “Oil and Blood,” “The Dolls,” “Byzantium,” and “The Statues.”
More about Him
William Butler Yeats received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923. He also worked in British and Irish literary establishments and served as a senator in the Irish Parliament twice. W. B. Yeats is considered to be a major voice in Irish Literature, having brought Irish myths to the limelight.