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William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats, (1865-1939). Irish poet and dramatist. The son of a painter, he studied art until 1889, when he published his first volume of poems, The Wanderings of Oisin (1889). Like much of his early poetry, this was based on Irish folklore. During the 1890s he involved himself in nationalist politics, partly out of love for the activist Maud Gonne. With a friend and patron, Lady Gregory, he established the Abbey theatre in Dublin (1904) and continued to manage it until the end of his life. Key works of Yeats’s middle period include the volumes Responsibilities (1914) and The Wild Swans at Goole (1917) and the poem ‘Easter 1916’ (1921). Having been rejected by Maud, he married Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917. Her psychic talents encouraged Yeats’s use of mystic symbolism in his later work. He was a member of the Irish Senate (1922-28) and won the Nobel Prize in 1923. Much of his greatest poetry, including The Tower (1927) and The Winding Stair (1933), was written in old age.

“Yeats stood for enchantment… He was the real original rationalist who said that the fairies stand to reason. He staggered the materialists by attacking their abstract materialism with a completely concrete mysticism. G. K. Chesterton, Autobiography (1936)”

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