Yeats, William Butler

Yeats, William Butler

biographical name

(born June 13, 1865, Sandymount, Dublin, Ire.—died Jan. 28, 1939, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France) Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer. The son of a well-known painter, Yeats early developed an interest in mysticism and visionary traditions as well as in Irish folklore, and both interests would continue to be sources of poetic imagery for him. His early volumes include the poetry volume The Wanderings of Oisin (1889) and the essay collection The Celtic Twilight (1893). In 1889 he fell in love with Maud Gonne, a brilliant, beautiful Irish patriot who inspired his involvement in Irish nationalism but did not reciprocate his feelings. With Lady Augusta Gregory and others, he founded the theatre that became the Abbey Theatre; throughout his life he would remain one of its directors. He contributed plays to its repertoire, including The Countess Cathleen (1899), On Baile's Strand (1905), and Deirdre (1907). His poetry changed decisively in the years 1909–14: the otherworldly, ecstatic atmosphere of the early lyrics cleared and his work gained in concreteness and complexity, often dealing with political themes, though his interest in mysticism and his passion for Maud Gonne continued unabated. With Responsibilities (1914) and The Wild Swans at Coole (1917) he began the period of his highest achievement. Some of his greatest verse appears in The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair (1929), and Last Poems (1939). The individual poems of the latter are largely held together by the system of symbolism he developed in A Vision (1925), which used astrological images to link individual psychology with the larger patterns of history. Yeats was a member of the Irish Senate (1922–28). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, and he is regarded by some as the greatest English-language poet of the 20th century.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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