William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin on the 13th of June 1865, the son of John Butler Yeats, barrister turned portrait painter, and Susan Pollexfen, daughter of a wealthy (mills and shipping) Sligo family. Yeats's early years were spent between Dublin, London, and Sligo, attending schools in London and Dublin before entering the Metropolitan School of Art. However, he was increasingly drawn to writing through his admiration for the works of Samuel Ferguson and James Clarence Mangan.
(left) Yeats receiving his Honorary Degree at Oxford. (right) "Mr. W. B. Yeats, presenting Mr. George Moore to the Queen of the Fairies." This cartoon by Sir Max Beerbohm satirises Moore's initiation into the Irish literary movement, with which he was to carry on a brief and uneasy collaboration.
Yeats's first volume of verse, Mosada, A Dramatic Poem, came out in 1886 followed by The Wanderings of Oisin (1889), the year that he met Maud Gonne, who was to trouble his life and inspire his poetry for many years. Yeats published The Celtic Twilight (1893), a volume that lent its name to a school of poetry noted for its wavering rhythms and its evocation of melancholy, dream-like states of feeling.
In 1894 Yeats found a patron in Lady Gregory of Coole Park, and they cooperated in research into Irish folklore, and (with Edward Martyn) in the Irish Literary Theatre.
The Wind Among the Reeds (1899), contains the finest poetry of Yeats's early phase.
Yeats's volume, The Green Helmet (1910), marks a departure from his earlier Celtic poetry, and it was followed by Responsibilities (1914), The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), A Full Moon in March (1935), and Last Poems (1939).
Yeats married George Hyde-Lees in 1917, and through her cooperation as a medium he published A Vision (1925). They had two children, Anne and Michael.
Yeats's international reputation as a poet was assured from the 1920s, and in 1923 he was awarded the Nobel prize. The Irish state had already rewarded him with a seat in the Senate in 1922.
Yeats died on the 28th of January, 1939, in Roquebrune, France. He was buried there and, in 1948, his remains were brought back to Ireland to rest, as he had wished, "under bare Ben Bulben's head in Drumcliff churchyard".
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