William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats - Public domain
William Butler Yeats - Public domain

All lovers of Irish literature will tell you: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) is one of the great poets who have left their mark on the world. His talent and his works were such that he is still today one of the great authors of literature in Ireland. A great name of poetry in Ireland: still taught at the university, and who still knows how to seduce the heart of the passionate of literature.

Biography de William Butler Yeats

A wonderful childhood in County Sligo

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13, 1865. Son of the painter John Butler Yeats, William grew up in a family where artistic values were widely encouraged.

In 1867, the Yeats family moved from Dublin to County Sligo.

At that time, Yeats was only 2 years old, and the few years he spent there would leave a lasting impression on the poet, who would later try to transcribe the love and nostalgia that this land so dear to him evoked…

A few years later, the Yeats family was forced to move to London to facilitate the career prospects of William’s father. This move is experienced as a real uprooting for William, who prefers the wilderness of Sligo to the streets of London…

Yeats discovers literature, politics and creates the Abbey Theatre

In 1877, Yeats studied at the Godolphin School, then returned to Dublin in 1880, following financial problems experienced by his family. He joined the Erasmus Smith High School, and discovered two passions: writing and politics.

He surrounds himself with the most influential writers and artists of Dublin, and takes a fervent passion for the nationalist cause, which is all the rage in Ireland. In 1884, he studied art at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, and was introduced to theater.

He then created with other writers, a new literary circle, known as the “Irish Literary Revival” (or Renouveau de la Littérature Irlandaise). This group opened on December 27, 1904, a theater in Dublin called “Abbey Theatre”. The plays of Yeats and Lady Gregory were mainly performed there. It was at this time that Yeats met Maud Gonne, a woman deeply committed to the nationalist cause and a lover of the theater.

Very quickly, he devotes a devouring passion to this woman…. without her giving in to his desire for a life together. She gave him the inspiration for his poems, while he introduced her to the occult, a science that particularly attracted him.

But Yeats was much more in love than Gonne and the latter decided to marry John McBride, a soldier of the Irish Brigade, in 1903.

Yeats became increasingly involved in politics and writing, carrying the nationalist ideology

Yeats then decided to continue writing, and to draw inspiration from the mythology of Irish heroes by applying it to the nationalist cause. He never ceases to borrow symbols from Irish history and religion to illustrate his points. His infatuation with politics is particularly feverish in some of his poems.

But writing did not seem to be enough for Yeats, who decided to become a senator in the Irish Free State Senate (from 1922 to 1928)… His participations were highly appreciated and Yeats enjoyed a wide popularity within the Irish political and cultural milieu. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, and the poet was praised by his peers.

However, in 1930, William Butler Yeats decided to withdraw from politics and left Dublin for the South of France. He lived there for 9 years in peace, and died in 1939 in Roquebrune-Cap Martin. At his request, he was buried in County Sligo, in the Drumcliff churchyard.

Even today, he is considered an immense poet, who knew how to sublimate the region of Sligo by poems with masterly flights. His works are taught all over the world, including in Irish universities.