William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Dublin and educated there and in London. His father was a lawyer and a well-known portrait painter. William Butler Yeats was one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
What Do I Need to Know About Yeats?
- Contextual Values
- Possible Genres
- Language Techniques
- Poetic Structure
- Critics’ Essays
Born 1865 – Died 1939.
- His father was an Irish Nationalist but his mother believed Ireland should remain under Britain.
- Yeats’ family moved between London and Ireland in order to study visual arts.
- In London, he joined the Rhymers Club, meeting other writers e.g. Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
- In 1899 he published his first collection The Wanderings of Usheen and other Poems.
- He was often homesick and helped compile books of Irish fairy tales and verse.
- In 1889 he met his muse and unrequited love: poet, feminist, actress, and revolutionary Maud Gonne, who worked with him at the National Theatre of Ireland.
- In 1903, he was a successful poet and playwright and toured the USA.
- In 1917 he married George Hyde Lees who fostered his interest in mysticism and automatic writing.
- She helped him write A Vision (1925) which explained his bizarre philosophy of gyres which becomes symbolism in his poetry, especially The Second Coming.
- Some of his friends participated in the Easter Uprising of 1916; he wrote poetry in response to this.
- In his later years he was elected to the Irish Senate and in 1923 received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Contextual Values: What was the Easter Uprising?
- A mini-revolution staged by Irish republicans during Easter Week, 1916.
- They wanted to end British rule in Ireland.
- The revolutionaries led by Patrick Pearse and James Connolly seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic independent.
- The Rising was suppressed after seven days of fighting and its leaders were court-martialled and executed.
- The rebellion did bring republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics, a movement which was eventually successful in 1921.