March 1, 2017

William Butler Yeats

An Irish poet and playwright, who stands amongst the foremost literary figures of the 20th century.


William Butler Yeats
  • Full Name: William Butler Yeats
  • Date of Birth: June 13, 1865
  • Place of Birth: Dublin, Ireland
  • Zodiac Sign: Gemini
  • Death: January 28, 1939
  • Place of Death: Roquebrune, France
  • Cause of Death: Unspecified
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: Irish
  • Place of Burial: Drumcliff Cemetery, Ireland
  • Last Words: NA
  • Epitaph:
"Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!"
  • Father: John Butler Yeats (1839–1922)
  • Mother: Susan Pollexfen (1841–1900)
  • Siblings:
  1. Sister- Susan Mary "Lily" Yeats (1866–1849)
  2. Sister- Elizabeth Corbett "Lolly" Yeats (1868–1940)
  3. Brother- John "Jack" Butler Yeats (1871–1957)
  4. Brother-Robert Corbet Yeats (1870 – 1873)
  5. Sister- Jane Grace Yeats (1875 - 1876)
  • Marriage: October 20, 1917
  • Spouse: Bertha Georgie Yeats (née Hyde-Lees) (1892–1968)
  • Children:
  1. Daughter: Anne Butler Yeats (1919–2001)
  2. Son: Michael Butler Yeats (1921–2007)
  • Alma Mater: Metropolitan School of Art (now National College of Art and Design)
  • Known for: masterful use of symbolism and traditional forms
  • Criticized for: his obscure philosophical views
  • Influences: Edmund Spenser (1552–1599),  John Donne (1573 –1631), Edmund Burke (1729-1797), James Macpherson (1736 –1796), William Blake (1757-1827), William Wordsworth (1770 1850), Robert Southey (1774 –1843), Alphonse de Lamartine (1790 –1869), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), John Keats (1795-1821), Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 –1900)
  • Influenced: John Millington Synge (1871-1909), James Joyce (1882 – 1941), Ezra Pound (1885 –1972), Shane Leslie (1885 –1971), Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918), T. S. Eliot (1888 –1965), Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Frederick Guy Butler (1918 - 2001), Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), Octavio Paz (1914 –1998), Robert Bly (b 1926), John Montague (1929 − 2016), Harold Pinter (1930 –2008), Patrick Roland Cullinan (1933 –2011), Wendell Berry (b 1934), Cormac McCarthy (b 1933), Seamus Heaney (1939 –2013), Derek Mahon (b 1941), Nick Laird (b 1975), Keith Donohue (b 1959)


 “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Major Themes

  • Love
  • Nature
  • Immortality
  • Death/Old Age
  • Irish Myth
  • History
  • Irish Folklore
  • Irish Nationalism
  • Irish Politics
  • Disintegration/chaos

Notable Works

  • The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889)
  • The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics (1892)
  • In the Seven Woods (1903)
  • Responsibilities and Other Poems (1916)
  • The Wild Swans at Coole (1919)
  • Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921)
  • The Tower (1928)
  • The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933)
  • Mosada (1886)
  • The Land of Heart's Desire (1894)
  • Diarmuid and Grania (1901)
  • Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902)
  • On Baile's Strand (1903)
  • The Countess Cathleen (1911)
  • At the Hawk's Well (1916)
  • The Resurrection (1927)
  • Purgatory (1938)
Other Works
  • A Vision (1925)
  • The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows
  • Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892–1935 (editor)

Did You Know?

  • Yeats was the oldest of four children of John Butler Yeats and Susan Mary Pollexfen.
  • His father John Butler Yeats renounced lawyership to become an artist.
  • Yeats published his first books of poetry The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems in 1889 while he was a student at Dublin's Metropolitan School of Art.
  • He was the first Irishman to receive the Nobel Prize in 1923.
  • His Nobel Prize citation reads "for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation".
  • Yeats’ last plays were Purgatory (1938) and The Death of Cuchulain (1938).
  • In 1889 Yeats met the Irish Ntionalist Maud Gonne, his first love.
  • His love for Maud Gonne was one sided and she refused several of his marriage proposals.
  • Afterwards, Yeats proposed to Maud Gonne’s daughter Iseult MacBride, but got rejected by her as well.
  • Maud Gonne had a profound influence in his works and Yeats dedicated his 1892 drama The Countess Kathleen to her.
  • Having rejected by Maud Gonne’s daughter, Yeats married George Hyde-Less.
  • During their marriage Yeats was 52 while George Hyde-Less was 25 years old.
  • When his marriage was about to fail due to dull experience in the first honeymoon, his newlywed wife startled him with the notion of automatic writing, which helped creating a new creative period.
  • The automatic writing included a series of strange fragmentary phrases uttered by his wife in her sleep, which Yeats implemented into works and published as A Vision (1925).
  • Yeats’ infatuation with Maud Gonne lasted throughout his life.
  • His first physical affair was with Olivia Shakespear.
  • Yeats met his would be wife through Olivia Shakespear.
  • Yeats was a very good friend of Indian Bengali poet Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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