William Butler Yeats

The Irish writer & Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats sadly passed away 28 January 1939. He was Born 13th June in 1865 at Sandymount in County Dublin, Ireland. the family then relocated to the Pollexfen home at Merville, Sligo to stay with her extended family, and Yeats considered the area his childhood and spiritual home. Its landscape became his “country of the heart”. The Butler Yeats family were highly artistic; his brother Jack became an esteemed painter, his sisters Elizabeth and Susan Mary became involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement And Yeats grew up as a member of the former Protestant Ascendancy. In 1867, the family moved to England . At first the Yeats children were educated at home. Where Their mother told them Irish folktales. John provided an erratic education in geography and chemistry, and took William on natural history explorations of the nearby Slough countryside. On 26 January 1877, Yeats entered the Godolphin school,which he attended for four years, and was fascinated by biology and zoology. On 1880 the family returned to Dublin, living at first in the suburbs of Harold’s Cross and later Howth. In October 1881, Yeats resumed his education at Dublin’s Erasmus Smith High School. William also spent a great deal of time at his Father’s studio, and met many of the city’s artists and writers. he also started writing poetry, and, in 1885, the Dublin University Review published Yeats’s first poems, as well as an essay entitled “The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson”.

Between 1884 and 1886, William attended the Metropolitan School of Art (The National College of Art and Design) where He wrote a poem which was heavily influenced by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Yeats’s works drew heavily on Shelley, Edmund Spenser, pre-Raphaelite verse, William Blake, Irish mythology and folklore. In 1891, Yeats published “John Sherman” and “Dhoya”. The family returned to London in 1887. In March 1890 Yeats joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and co-founded the Rhymers’ Club, with Ernest Rhys, a group of London-based poets who met regularly in a Fleet Street tavern to recite their verse. Yeats later renamed them “the Tragic Generation” in his autobiography, and published two anthologies of the Rhymers’ work, in 1892 and 1894. He collaborated with Edwin Ellis on the first complete edition of William Blake’s works, and rediscovered a forgotten poem, “Vala, or, the Four Zoas”.

Yeats also became interested in Emanuale Swedenborg and mysticism, spiritualism, occultism and astrology and became a member of the paranormal research organisation “The Ghost Club”. His mystical interests—also inspired by a study of Hinduism, under the Theosophist Mohini Chatterjee, and the occult and he wrote a fantasy poem which was serialized in the Dublin University Review. His first solo publication was the pamphlet Mosada: A Dramatic Poem (1886), followed by The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889). “The Wanderings of Oisin” is based on the lyrics of the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology and was inspired by Sir Samuel Ferguson and the Pre-Raphaelite poets.His other early works, include Poems (1895), The Secret Rose (1897), and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). In 1885, Yeats was involved in the formation of the Dublin Hermetic Order. And the Dublin Theosophical lodge also opened in conjunction with Brahmin Mohini Chatterjee, who travelled from the Theosophical Society in London to lecture. Yeats attended his first séance and became heavily involved with the Theosophical Society and with hermeticism, particularly with the eclectic Rosicrucianism of the Golden Dawn. He was admitted into the Golden Dawn in March 1890 and took the magical motto Daemon est Deus inversus—translated as Devil is God inverted or A demon is a god reflected. He was involved when Aleister Crowley was sent to repossess Golden Dawn paraphernalia during the “Battle of Blythe Road”. After the Golden Dawn ceased and splintered into various offshoots, Yeats remained with the Stella Matutina until 1921.

In 1889, Yeats met 23 year old heiress Maud Gonne, Gonne admired “The Island of Statues” and she had a lasting effect on Yeats thereafter.In 1891, he visited Gonne in Ireland and proposed marriage, but she rejected him, Yeats proposed to Gonne three more times: in 1899, 1900 and 1901. She refused each proposal, and in 1903, to his horror, married the Irish nationalist Major John MacBride. Yeats then continually derided and demeaned John MacBride both in his letters and his poetry. Then Much to Yeats’ delight Gonne’s marriage to MacBride, was a disaster, then Gonne began to visit Yeats in London. After the birth of her son, Seán MacBride, in 1904, Gonne and MacBride seperated however Yeats’s relationship with Gonne remained unconsummated until 1908? In 1896, Yeats met Lady Gregory through their mutual friend Edward Martyn and became involved with a new generation of younger and emerging Irish authors, including Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, J. M. Synge, Seán O’Casey, and Padraic Colum, and Yeats was one of those responsible for the establishment of the “Irish Literary Revival” movement. Then In 1899, Yeats, Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and George Moore established the Irish Literary Theatre for the purpose of performing Irish and Celtic plays. Working with two Irish brothers with theatrical experience, William and Frank Fay, Yeats’s unpaid yet independently wealthy secretary Annie Horniman, and the leading West End actress Florence Farr, the group established the Irish National Theatre Society. on 27 December 1904 they opened the Abbey Theatre, performing Yeats’s play Cathleen Ní Houlihan and Lady Gregory’s Spreading the News .

In 1902, he helped set up the Dun Emer Press to publish work by writers associated with the Revival. This became the Cuala Press in 1904, and inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1909, Yeats met the American poet Ezra Pound. From 1909 until 1916, the two men wintered in the Stone Cottage at Ashdown Forest, with Pound nominally acting as Yeats’s secretary. However The relationship got off to a rocky start after Pound rearranged Yeats own poetry without permission and published it. Pound was also influenced by Japanese Noh plays which he had obtained from Ernest Fenollosa’s widow. Thea provided Yeats with a model for the aristocratic dramas he intended to write, including At the Hawk’s Well, in 1916. The emergence of a nationalist revolutionary movement from the ranks of the mostly Roman Catholic lower-middle and working class Also made Yeats reassess some of his attitudes. Yeats was an Irish Nationalist at heart, looking for the kind of traditional lifestyle displayed through poems such as ‘The Fisherman’. However, as his life progressed, he sheltered much of his revolutionary spirit and tried to distance himself from the intense political landscape and the Easter Rising until 1922, when he was appointed Senator for the Irish Free State.

In 1916, 51 years old Yeats was determined to marry. Meanwhile John MacBride had been executed by British forces for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising, and Yeats thought that his widow might remarry so he proposed to Maud Gonne again and she duly refused. So He set his sights on her 21year old daughter.” Iseult Gonne , Maud’s second child with Lucien Millevoye, but was again rejected so Yeats proposed to 25-year-old Georgie Hyde-Lees, whom he had met through Olivia Shakespear., and the two were married in 1916 having two children, Anne and Michael. They also experimented with automatic writing, and George contacted a variety of spirits and guides they called “Instructors” while in a trance. The spirits communicated a complex and esoteric system of philosophy and history, which the couple developed into an exposition using geometrical shapes: phases, cones, and gyres.the results were subsequently published in “A vision”. In December 1923, Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. This led to a significant increase in the sales of his books,

In 1922 Yeats’ appointed to the first Irish Senate in 1922, and was re-appointed for a second term in 1925. During a incendiary debate on divorce, which Yeats viewed as a confrontation between Roman Catholics and Protestants. He delivered a series of speeches that attacked the “quixotically impressive” ambitions of the government and clergy, likening their campaign tactics to those of “medieval Spain.” The resulting debate has been described as one of Yeats’s “supreme public moments”, and began his ideological move away from pluralism towards religious confrontation.v

He retired from the Senate in 1928 due to ill health and began to question whether democracy could cope with deep economic difficulty, particularly after the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression. After the First World War, he became sceptical about the efficacy of democratic government, and anticipated political reconstruction in Europe through totalitarian rule. His later association with Ezra Pound drew him towards Benito Mussolini. In 1934 At the age of 69 he was ‘rejuvenated’ by a Steinach operation and the last five years of his life Yeats found a new vigour and had a number of relationships with younger women including the poet and actress Margot Ruddock, and the novelist, journalist and sexual radical Ethel Mannin and despite age and ill-health, he remained a prolific writer. And In 1936, he became editor of the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892–1935. Sadly though Yeats died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France, on 28 January 1939. And was buried at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. However In September 1948, Yeats’ body was moved to Drumcliff, County Sligo, on the Irish Naval Service corvette LÉ Macha. The person in charge of this operation for the Irish Government was Sean MacBride, son of Maud Gonne MacBride, and then Minister of External Affairs.

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