William Butler Yeats was not just an extremely well-known Nobel Prize-winning author, he was a very influential Irishman in the political and social fields of the time. Although given much more credit for his poetry rather than the social groups which arose from his influence, he was very involved in society.
Yeats was born near Dublin, Ireland in Silgo on June 13, 1865, into an Anglo-Irish Protestant family. He was educated at Dublin and London. During his education, he studied art and writing. At the age of twenty-three, Yeats wrote his first book, and during 1888 he became madly entranced with a woman by the name of Maud Gonne.
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Although he asked for her hand in marriage on many different occasions, she always returned him a declination in response. Finally, in 1916 Maud Gonne married a soldier and Yeats surrendered his pursuit. Yeats was not discontented for too long, however, for he married Georgina Hyde-Lees in 1917.
Yeats’ writings underwent many changes. From 1900 until 1907, William endeavored into the field of writing plays, which were esoteric (full of poetry and prose writings) and expressed his critical ideas, after which he returned to his most familiar field, poetry. Soon after his return to poetry (1923 to be precise), he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He published The Tower (1928), and then in 1933 he published yet another, The Winding Stair. Both of these books are based on Georgina’s writing and speech, which greatly influenced Yeats’ writings.
The titles of these refer to a Norman fortification that Yeats acquired in 1917 called Thoor Balleylee in County Galway. Yeats’ writings consisted mainly of lyrical, romantic, and mythological poetry. His poetry was full of individual idioms and tones of allusiveness that were nurtured by his interests. Yeats continued to write poetry throughout the rest of his life, until a day or two before his death at Roquebrune, France in 1939.
Yeats’ political pursuits began early in his life. During his time of schooling in London and Dublin, he founded the fin de siècle, a society of poets. With the aid of Ernest Rhys, he helped to found the Rhymers Club which dabbled in theosophy and the occult. He leads the Irish Literary Revival which leads to his founding of the Irish Literary Society of London in 1892 and the Irish Literary Society in Dublin, Ireland. William was in the Celtic Revival which was a movement dedicated to Irish independence and Irish folklore in literature. He
also presided over the Irish National Theatre. Due to his background as an Anglo-Irish Protestant, his main hope was to unite the Catholics and the Protestants through national literature that rose above different religious beliefs.
The Anglo-Irish War was fought from 1916 until 1922, immediately after which Yeats, then in his fifties, was appointed Senator of the New Irish Free State. Upon reaching his seventieth birthday, Yeats received the honor of being hailed as “The Greatest Living Irishman” by his nation. Soon after which, on January 28, 1939, Yeats died at the age of seventy-three.
“William Yeats.” British Literature. New York: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2002.
“William Yeats.” The British Tradition. New Jersey: Prentince Hall, Inc., 1994.
“William Yeats.” British Writers. Ed. Ian Scott Kilvert. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979. P. 1058
Eirmann, Katherena. “The Magic of William Butler Yeats.” Pleasures of the Mind. 2000-2002. 9, January 2002. http://members.aol.com/KatherenaE/private/Pweek/Yeats/yeats.html
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