We take a look back on the life and times of one of Ireland’s literary greats, William Butler Yeats.
Born in Dublin on 13 June 1865, W.B. Yeats dedicated his life to the arts and left behind a legacy that remains ever-present across Ireland and the world.
On the anniversary of his birth, we take a look at the life and legacy of one of the greatest Irish poets of all time.
William Butler Yeats – born 13 June 1865
To mark William Butler Yeats’ birthday, 13 June 1865, we take a look at the life and impact he has had on Ireland and the wider world of literature.
W.B. Yeats was one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature and a key driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival.
He is one of the pillars of the Irish literary establishment and was one of the founders of the original Abbey Theatre, along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn.
The influence of his life and work comes mainly from his relationships, Irish legends, war, and the occult. Maude Gonne is one key figure that any fan of his work will instantly recognise.
While he grew up in Sandymount in Dublin, he spent a lot of his childhood in County Sligo. As such, many of his works have strong hints of Sligo, and his impact is very apparent in Sligo today through restaurants, trails, experiences, and more.
Later in life, W.B. Yeats served two terms as a Senator of the Irish Free State.
His most prolific works – some of our favourites
Written in 1886, one of his most famous poems, and one of our favourites, is ‘The Stolen Child’. Just 21 at the time of writing it, the poem relates to stolen innocence.
It centres around a boy who is taken from his family by a group of changelings, eventually losing his own identity. This is one of the key poems by Yeats that is strongly influenced by Celtic mythology.
Another one of our favourites is ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’. This poem was clearly influenced by his time spent in Sligo, as it refers to an uninhabited island within Lough Gill, which sits in Sligo and partly in Leitrim.
The story behind the poem came to Yeats in a “sudden” memory of his childhood while he was walking down Fleet Street in London and compared nature to civilisation.
Some of his most important works also include ‘The Second Coming’, ‘Leda and the Swan’, ‘Easter 1916’, and ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’.
His presence today – ever-present throughout Ireland
The legacy of W.B. Yeats remains strong in Ireland today, and there are many places to discover him throughout the country.
Firstly, his grave. His body was moved from France to the place he adored the most, Count Sligo. You can visit his grave today as part of Sligo’s Yeats Trail. The grave is inscribed with an epitaph he wrote himself.
There is also the Yeats statue on Stephen Street in Sligo, the National Library in Dublin to discover his work, his former home of Thoor Ballylee Castle in Galway, and so much more.
And, of course, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. This is one of the most iconic places to retrace the history of W.B. Yeats and his influence on the theatre and literature in Ireland altogether.
You can even head for a pint at Toner’s Pub across the road, where Yeats would enjoy a tipple or two.
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