w.b. yeats


  • One of the most significant of these was Douglas Hyde, later the first President of Ireland, whose Love Songs of Connacht was widely admired.

  • Following the work, Yeats never again attempted another long poem.

  • [30] As early as 1892, he wrote: “If I had not made magic my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would The Countess Kathleen ever have
    come to exist.

  • [85] For the last five years of his life Yeats found a new vigour evident from both his poetry and his intimate relations with younger women.

  • Yeats later sought to mythologize the collective, calling it the “Tragic Generation” in his autobiography,[27] and published two anthologies of the Rhymers’ work, the first
    one in 1892 and the second one in 1894.

  • “[51][52] The group’s manifesto, which Yeats wrote, declared, “We hope to find in Ireland an uncorrupted & imaginative audience trained to listen by its passion for oratory
    … & that freedom to experiment which is not found in the theatres of England, & without which no new movement in art or literature can succeed.

  • [68] Gonne’s history of revolutionary political activism, as well as a series of personal catastrophes in the previous few years of her life—including chloroform addiction
    and her troubled marriage to MacBride—made her a potentially unsuitable wife;[43] biographer R. F. Foster has observed that Yeats’s last offer was motivated more by a sense of duty than by a genuine desire to marry her.

  • [81] His language became more forceful; the Jesuit Father Peter Finlay was described by Yeats as a man of “monstrous discourtesy”, and he lamented that “It is one of the glories
    of the Church in which I was born that we have put our Bishops in their place in discussions requiring legislation”.

  • Pound had travelled to London at least partly to meet the older man, whom he considered “the only poet worthy of serious study.

  • She had lived a sad life to this point; conceived as an attempt to reincarnate her short-lived brother, for the first few years of her life she was presented as her mother’s
    adopted niece.

  • Nearly twenty years later, Yeats recalled the night with Gonne in his poem “A Man Young and Old”:[48] My arms are like the twisted thorn And yet there beauty lay; The first
    of all the tribe lay there And did such pleasure take; She who had brought great Hector down And put all Troy to wreck.

  • In the preface of the latter, he wrote: “One must not expect in these stories the epic lineaments, the many incidents, woven into one great event of, let us say the War for
    the Brown Bull of Cuailgne or that of the last gathering at Muirthemne.

  • Other pieces from this period include a draft of a play about a bishop, a monk, and a woman accused of paganism by local shepherds, as well as love-poems and narrative lyrics
    on German knights.

  • [40] In later years he admitted, “it seems to me that she [Gonne] brought into my life those days—for as yet I saw only what lay upon the surface—the middle of the tint, a
    sound as of a Burmese gong, an over-powering tumult that had yet many pleasant secondary notes.

  • Yeats wished to include it in his first collection, but it was deemed too long, and in fact, was never republished in his lifetime.

  • [76] Old age and death[edit] By early 1925, Yeats’s health had stabilised, and he had completed most of the writing for A Vision (dated 1925, it actually appeared in January
    1926, when he almost immediately started rewriting it for a second version).

  • This became the Cuala Press in 1904, and inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, sought to “find work for Irish hands in the making of beautiful things.

  • [19] His father’s studio was nearby and William spent a great deal of time there, where he met many of the city’s artists and writers.

  • [80] During his time in the Senate, Yeats further warned his colleagues: “If you show that this country, southern Ireland, is going to be governed by Roman Catholic ideas
    and by Catholic ideas alone, you will never get the North… You will put a wedge in the midst of this nation”.

  • Gonne made a series of allegations against her husband with Yeats as her main ‘second’, though he did not attend court or travel to France.

  • [6] At the time of his marriage, William’s father, John Yeats, was studying law, but would later pursue art studies at Heatherley School of Fine Art, in London.

  • Although in later years he had romantic relationships with other women, Georgie herself wrote to her husband “When you are dead, people will talk about your love affairs,
    but I shall say nothing, for I will remember how proud you were.

  • [17] He began writing his first works when he was seventeen; these included a poem—heavily influenced by Percy Bysshe Shelley—that describes a magician who set up a throne
    in central Asia.

  • [5] Following their marriage, they kept the name Butler.

  • [34] The poem took two years to complete and was one of the few works from this period that he did not disown in his maturity.

  • The 1880s saw the rise of Charles Stewart Parnell and the home rule movement; the 1890s saw the momentum of nationalism, while the Irish Catholics became prominent around
    the turn of the century.

  • In a letter of 1935, Yeats noted: “I find my present weakness made worse by the strange second puberty the operation has given me, the ferment that has come upon my imagination.

  • [17] For financial reasons, the family returned to Dublin toward the end of 1880, living at first in the suburbs of Harold’s Cross[18] and later in Howth.

  • The early works were both conventional and, according to the critic Charles Johnston, “utterly unIrish”, seeming to come out of a “vast murmurous gloom of dreams”.

  • He would often visit and stay there as it was a central meeting place for people who supported the resurgence of Irish literature and cultural traditions.

  • In later life, Yeats paid tribute to Blake by describing him as one of the “great artificers of God who uttered great truths to a little clan”.

  • [90] Yeats and George had often discussed his death, and his express wish was that he be buried quickly in France with a minimum of fuss.

  • He later admitted that from that point “the troubling of my life began”.

  • [87] As in his earlier life, Yeats found erotic adventure conducive to his creative energy, and, despite age and ill-health, he remained a prolific writer.

  • His major later works include 1928’s The Tower and Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems, published in 1932.

  • His reply to many of the letters of congratulations sent to him contained the words: “I consider that this honour has come to me less as an individual than as a representative
    of Irish literature, it is part of Europe’s welcome to the Free State.

  • In his later years he served two terms as a Senator of the Irish Free State.

  • Towards the end of his life—and especially after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and Great Depression, which led some to question whether democracy could cope with deep economic
    difficulty—Yeats seems to have returned to his aristocratic sympathies.

  • [c] She was eighteen months younger than Yeats and later claimed she met the poet as a “paint-stained art student.

  • Working with the Irish brothers with theatrical experience, William and Frank Fay, Yeats’s unpaid but independently wealthy secretary Annie Horniman, and the leading West
    End actress Florence Farr, the group established the Irish National Theatre Society.

  • “[53] Yeats’s interest in the classics and his defiance of English censorship were also fueled by a tour of America he took between 1903 and 1904.

  • “The long years of fidelity rewarded at last” was how another of his lovers described the event.

  • [23] The theory of masks, developed by Wilde in his polemic The Decay of Lying can clearly be seen in Yeats’s play The Player Queen,[24] while the more sensual characterisation
    of Salomé, in Wilde’s play of the same name, provides the template for the changes Yeats made in his later plays, especially in On Baile’s Strand (1904), Deirdre (1907), and his dance play The King of the Great Clock Tower (1934).

  • [83] When the house finally decided on the artwork of Percy Metcalfe, Yeats was pleased, though he regretted that compromise had led to “lost muscular tension” in the finally
    depicted images.

  • He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and became a pillar of the Irish literary establishment who helped to found the Abbey Theatre.

  • [61][62] In the earlier part of his life, Yeats was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

  • These topics feature in the first phase of his work, lasting roughly from his student days at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin until the turn of the 20th century.

  • This conviction has come to us through ancient philosophy and modern literature, and it seems to us a most sacrilegious thing to persuade two people who hate each other…
    to live together, and it is to us no remedy to permit them to part if neither can re-marry.

  • “[43] The relationship did not develop into a new phase after their night together, and soon afterwards Gonne wrote to the poet indicating that despite the physical consummation,
    they could not continue as they had been: “I have prayed so hard to have all earthly desire taken from my love for you and dearest, loving you as I do, I have prayed and I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you

  • Quinx Books published the poem in complete form for the first time in 2014.

  • [12] In 1867, the family moved to England to aid their father, John, to further his career as an artist.

  • [71] Yeats devoted much time to preparing this material for publication as A Vision (1925).

  • Its landscape became, over time, both personally and symbolically, his “country of the heart”.

  • [49] Apart from these creative writers, much of the impetus for the Revival came from the work of scholarly translators who were aiding in the discovery of both the ancient
    sagas and Ossianic poetry and the more recent folk song tradition in Irish.

  • But as his life progressed, he sheltered much of his revolutionary spirit and distanced himself from the intense political landscape until 1922, when he was appointed Senator
    for the Irish Free State.

  • [73] Politically aware, he knew the symbolic value of an Irish winner so soon after Ireland had gained independence, and highlighted the fact at each available opportunity.

  • “[60] Politics[edit] Yeats in Dublin on 12 December 1922, at the start of his term as member of the Seanad Eireann Yeats was an Irish nationalist, who sought a kind of traditional
    lifestyle articulated through poems such as ‘The Fisherman’.

  • While his family was broadly supportive of the changes Ireland was experiencing, the nationalist revival of the late 19th century directly disadvantaged his heritage and informed
    his outlook for the remainder of his life.

  • Although he was influenced by French Symbolism, Yeats concentrated on an identifiably Irish content and this inclination was reinforced by his involvement with a new generation
    of younger and emerging Irish authors.

  • In the refrain of “Easter, 1916” (“All changed, changed utterly / A terrible beauty is born”), Yeats faces his own failure to recognise the merits of the leaders of the Easter
    Rising, due to his attitude towards their ordinary backgrounds and lives.

  • “[80] The resulting debate has been described as one of Yeats’s “supreme public moments”, and began his ideological move away from pluralism towards religious confrontation.

  • [9] The Butler Yeats family were highly artistic; his brother Jack became an esteemed painter, while his sisters Elizabeth and Susan Mary—known to family and friends as Lollie
    and Lily—became involved in the Arts and Crafts movement.

  • During this period he started writing poetry, and, in 1885, the Dublin University Review published Yeats’s first poems, as well as an essay entitled “The Poetry of Sir Samuel

  • [10] Yeats was raised a member of the Protestant Ascendancy, which was at the time undergoing a crisis of identity.

  • [21] Although Yeats’s early works drew heavily on Shelley, Edmund Spenser, and on the diction and colouring of pre-Raphaelite verse, he soon turned to Irish mythology and
    folklore and the writings of William Blake.

  • He read extensively on the subjects throughout his life, became a member of the paranormal research organisation “The Ghost Club” (in 1911) and was influenced by the writings
    of Emanuel Swedenborg.

  • A more indirect influence was the scholarship on Japanese Noh plays that Pound had obtained from Ernest Fenollosa’s widow, which provided Yeats with a model for the aristocratic
    drama he intended to write.

  • [32] His first significant poem was “The Island of Statues”, a fantasy work that took Edmund Spenser and Shelley for its poetic models.

  • His first solo publication was the pamphlet Mosada: A Dramatic Poem (1886), which comprised a print run of 100 copies paid for by his father.

  • “[70] During the first years of marriage, they experimented with automatic writing; she contacted a variety of spirits and guides they called “Instructors” while in a trance.

  • [75] He wrote three “marching songs”—never used—for the Irish General Eoin O’Duffy’s Blueshirts.

  • In March 1890 Yeats joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and with Ernest Rhys co-founded the Rhymers’ Club,[26] a group of London-based poets who met regularly in
    a Fleet Street tavern to recite their verse.

  • “[56] From then until its closure in 1946, the press—which was run by the poet’s sisters—produced over 70 titles; 48 of them books by Yeats himself.

  • He must be dead”—Hyde-Lees accepted, and the two were married on 20 October.


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[‘1. Pronounced /jeɪts/ YAYTS, rhyming with gates.
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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gadl/253426762/’]