Essay on William Butler Yeats

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William Butler Yeats

One of Ireland's finest writers, William Butler Yeats served a long apprenticeship in the arts before his genius was fully developed. He did some of his greatest work after he was fifty.

Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13, 1865. His father was a lawyer-turned-Irish painter. In 1867 the family followed him to London and settled in Bedford Park. In 1881 they returned to Dublin, where Yeats studied the Metropolitan School of Art. Yeats spent much time with his grandparents in County Sligo in northwestern Ireland. The scenery and folklore of this region greatly influenced Yeats' work. For a while he studied art, but during the 1890s he became active in London's literary life and helped found the Rhymers'
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The suggestive, beautiful lyricism of Yeats’ early career (including such works as the famous ‘Sailing to Byzantium’) changed to the tune of spare and tragic bitterness as Ireland faced certain war in the early 1910s. This was apparent in Yeats poem 'September 1913' in which he stated: "Romantic Ireland's dead and gone." During the civil war Irish Free State soldiers burned many of Yeats' letters to Maud Gonne when they raided her house.

At the start of the war Yeats went to Oxford, but then returned to Dublin, becoming a Senator in the same year. A free Ireland was Maud Gonne’s passion, and Yeats' love for her sparked his interest in the country's political struggles. From 1922 until 1928 he was a senator in the Dail Eireann, or Irish parliament. As a politician Yeats defended Protestant interests and took pro-Treaty stance against Republicans. Yeats was passionate about reforming Ireland, but frustrated at what seemed to be endless struggle.

After his stint as a senator, Yeats devoted himself to literature and drama, believing that poems and plays would create a national unity capable of transforming the country. In 1916 he published what may be his most famous work, 'Easter 1916' about the Irish nationalist uprising. It referred to the executed leaders of the uprising and stated: "Now and in time to be, / Wherever the green is
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