Quotes by William Butler Yeats
The official designs of the Government, especially its designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage, may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors of national taste.
We make out of the quarrel with others‚ rhetoric‚ but of the quarrel with ourselves‚ poetry.
This melancholy London. I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.
The only business of the head in the world is to bow a ceaseless obeisance to the heart.
I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all - the colleges I mean - like an opera.
Englishmen are babes in philosophy and so prefer faction-fighting to the labour of its unfamiliar thought.
The creations of a great writer are little more than the moods and passions of his own heart‚ given surnames and Christian names‚ and sent to walk the earth.
I agree about Shaw - he is haunted by the mystery he flouts. He is an atheist who trembles in the haunted corridor.
In dreams begin responsibilities.
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.
I think you can leave the arts‚ superior or inferior‚ to the conscience of mankind.
Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.
William Butler Yeats's Biography
Irish poet‚ dramatist and prose writer‚ one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. Yeats received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. Between the Celtic visions of THE WANDERINGS OF OISIN (1889) and the intellectual‚ often obscure poetry of the 1930s‚ Yeats produced a tremendous amount of works. In his early career Yeats studied William Blake's poems‚ Emanuel Swedenborg's writings and other visionaries. Later he expressed his disillusionment with the reality of his native country. Central theme in Yeats's poems is Ireland‚ its bitter history‚ folklore‚ and contemporary public life.

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin into an Irish Protestant family. His father‚ John Butler Yeats‚ a clergyman's son‚ was a lawyer turned to an Irish Pre-Raphaelite painter. Yeats's mother‚ Susan Pollexfen‚ came from a wealthy family - the Pollexfens had a prosperous milling and shipping business. His early years Yeats spent in London and Sligo‚ a beautiful county on the west coast of Ireland‚ where his mother had grown and which he later depicted in his poems. In 1881 the family returned to Dublin. While studying at the Metropolitan School of Art‚ Yeats met there the poet‚ dramatist‚ and painter George Russell (1867-1935). He was interested in mysticism‚ and his search inspired also Yeats‚ who at that time associated Protestantism with materialism and like Blake‚ rejected the Newtonian mechanistic worldview. This turn was a surprise to his father‚ who had tried to raise his son without encouraging him to ponder with such questions‚ but had given him Blake's poetry to read. Reincarnation‚ communication with the dead‚ mediums‚ supernatural systems and Oriental mysticism fascinated Yeats through his life. In 1886 Yeats formed the Dublin Lodge of the Hermetic Society and took the magical name Daemon est Deus Inversus. The occult order also attracted Aleister Crowley. The Rhymers' Club‚ which Yeats founded with Ernest Rhys‚ he recalled it meeting each night "in an upper room with a sanded floor in an ancient eating-house in the Strand called the Cheshire Cheese".

As a writer Yeats made his debut in 1885‚ when he published his first poems in The Dublin University Review. In 1887 the family returned to Bedford Park‚ and Yeats devoted himself to writing. He visited Mme Blavatsky‚ the famous occultist‚ and joined the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society‚ but was later asked to resign. In 1889 Yeats met his great love‚ Maud Gonne (1866-1953)‚ an actress and Irish revolutionary‚ whom he wrote many poems. She married in 1903 Major John MacBride‚ and this episode inspired Yeats's poem 'No Second Troy'. "Why‚ what could she have done being what she is? / Was there another Troy for her to burn." MacBride was later executed by the British.

Through Maud's influence Yeats joined the revolutionary organization Irish Republican Brotherhood. Later an 1899 police report described Yeats as "more or less revolutionary". Maud had devoted herself to political struggle‚ but Yeats viewed with suspicion her world full of intrigues. He was more interested in folktales as a part of an exploration of national heritage and for the revival of Celtic identity. His study with George Russell and Douglas Hyde of Irish legends and tales was published in 1888 under the name Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. Yeats assembled for children a less detailed version‚ IRIS FAIRY TALES‚ which appeared in 1892. (see also Wilhelm Grimm.) THE WANDERINGS OF OISIN AND OTHER POEMS (1889)‚ filled with sad longings‚ took its subject from Irish mythology.

In 1896 Yeats returned to live permanently in his home country. He reformed Irish Literary Society‚ and then the National Literary Society in Dublin‚ which aimed to promote the New Irish Library. Lady Gregory first saw W.B. Yeats 1894 - "...looking every inch a poet‚" she wrote in her diary - and again two years later. Their relationship started in 1897 and led to the founding of the Irish Literary Theatre‚ which became the Irish National Theatre Society. It moved in 1904 into the new Abbey Theatre‚ named after the Dublin street in which it stood. Yeats worked as a director of the theatre‚ writing several plays for it. Another director was the dramatist John Synge (1871-1909)‚ Yeats's close friend‚ whose masterpiece The Playboy of the Western World (1907) was greeted with riots and had to be performed uder police protection. Edmund Wilson once said‚ that Yeats's greatest contribution to the theatre was not his own plays but those of Synge.

Yeats's most famous dramas were CATHLEEN NI HOULIHAN (1902)‚ in which Maud Gonne gained great acclaim in the title role‚ and THE LAND OF HEART'S DESIRE (1894). Yeats did not have in the beginning much confidence in Lady Gregory's literary skills‚ but after seeing her translation of the ancient Irish Cuchulain sagas he changed his mind. Cathleen ni Houlihan has been credited to Yeats but now it is considered to be written by Lady Gregory - the idea came from Yeats and he wrote the chant of the old woman at the end. (see 'Lady Gregory's Toothbrush' by Colm Toibín‚ New York Times Review of Books‚ August 9‚ 2001)

Ezra Pound‚ whom Yeats met in 1912‚ served as his fencing master and secretary in the winters of 1913 and 1914. Pound introduced Yeats to Japanese Noh drama‚ which inspired his plays. In early 1917 Yeats bought Thoor Ballyle‚ a derelict Norman stone tower near Coole Park. After restoring it‚ the tower became his summer home and central symbol in his later poetry. At the age of 52‚ in 1917‚ he married Georgie Hyde Lees‚ who was 26. Although Yeats first had his doubts‚ the marriage was happy and they had a son and a daughter. However‚ before the marriage Yeats had proposed Maud Gonne‚ but he was also obsessed with Gonne's daughter Iseult‚ who turned him down. During their honeymoon‚ Yeats's wife demonstrated her gift for automatic writing. Their collaborative notebooks formed the basis of A VISION (1925)‚ about marriage‚ occultism‚ and historical cycles. Most readers gave it a lukewarm reception.

The change from suggestive‚ beautiful lyricism toward disillusionment was marked 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's letters to Maud Gonne when they raided her house. In 1916 Yeats published '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 worn‚ / All changed‚ changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born." Although Irish politics was a central theme in many of Yeats's writings‚ he made clear a distinction between political and religious propaganda and art. At the start of the war‚ Yeats went to Oxford‚ but then returned to Dublin. In 1922 he became a senator in the Irish Free State. As a politician Yeats defended Protestant interests and took pro-Treaty stance against Republicans. Maud Gonne's son‚ Sean MacBride‚ was imprisoned without trial under emergency legislation that Yeats had voted for.

THE WILD SWANS AT COOLE (1917) was set on the Coole Park‚ the estate of Yeats's friend and patron Lady Augusta Gregory. The tone of the work is reflective‚ almost conversational‚ and occasionally the poet lets loose his bitterness and grief of the past. Yeats registers the death of Robert Gregory‚ Lady Gregory's son‚ and Mabel Beardley‚ sister of the English artist Aubrey Beardsley. Yeats also returns to his relationship with Maud Gonne‚ who rejected his love.

In 1932 Yeats founded the Irish Academy of Letters. Never a sophisticated political thinker‚ and favoring the leadership of the few‚ Yeats was briefly involved in 1933-34 with the fascist Blueshirts in Dublin and wrote some marching songs for them. In his final years Yeats worked on the last version of A Vision‚ which attempted to present a theory of the archetypes of human personality‚ and published THE OXFORD BOOK OF VERSE (1936) and NEW POEMS (1938). Yeats died in 1939 at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour‚ in Menton‚ France. In 'Under Ben Buiben‚' one of his last poems‚ he had written: " No marble‚ no conventional phrase; On limestone quarried near the spot / By his command these words are cut: Cast a cold eye / On life‚ on death. / Horseman; pass by!" Yeats's coffin was taken in 1948 to Druncliff in Sligo‚ but there is some doubt as to the authenticity of the bones. "The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write."


Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008