Remembering William Butler Yeats:
June 13, 1865–January 28, 1939
William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, playwright, and politician, was born on this day in 1865. One of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century, Yeats’ life and work straddle the great divide between Romanticism and Modernism. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
In life and in art, Yeats rejected modern rationalism, materialism, and egalitarianism. He saw them as coarsening and brutalizing.
Spiritually, Yeats was drawn to mysticism and the occult, influenced in particular by Emanuel Swedenborg and William Blake. Politically, like so many great literary artists of the first half of the 20th century, Yeats was drawn to fascism. To learn more about Yeats’ life, art, and politics, see the following works on this site:
- Kerry Bolton, “W. B. Yeats” (from Artists of the Right)
- Jonathan Bowden, “W. B. Yeats“
- Greg Johnson, “Yeats’ Pagan Second Coming” (Translations: German, Spanish)
- Vic Olvir, “William Butler Yeats: A Poet for the West“
- George Orwell, “W. B. Yeats as Occult Fascist“
Share your favorite Yeats poems below.
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Yeats! What a great birthday party gift bag! Thank you.
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W B Yeats is definitely a man of the right. I would consider the poem September 1913 to be one of his finest. It was a lament at the decline of culture and lack of patriotic sentiment in Ireland at the time. He mentions unscrupulous action such as ‘add the half pence to the pence’, ‘fumble in a greasy till’. One should not hate money/ wealth but one should definitely not get consumed by desire for it – our greatest desire should be securing the existence of our people and creating pleasant hospitable societies for our descendents.
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