Yeats: Later Poems

Pdf Yeats, W.B., Later Poems, MacMillan And Co. Ltd., London, 1931
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Later Poems by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was published in 1931 and is among the final collections of poems produced by the Nobel prize winning Irish nationalist, poet and senator. Yeats was the son of John Butler Yeats and Susan-Mary Pollexfen and was born in 1865 at Sandymount in Dublin . His father was a painter and moved to London believing he could find more work there. The young W.B Yeats, as he later became more commonly known, hated London and would often spend summer holidays in Sligo where his grandparents lived. His love of the Irish countryside inspired him as a young writer. His father wanted him to go to art school in the hope that he might become a painter like his brother Jack. However Yeats was more interested in writing, theatre and poems and his earliest works were first published in the Dublin University Review.

When his family moved back to London , he was encouraged by an English poet called William Morris to write his poem The Wanderings of Oisin. William Morris was part of the English Romantic movement and like Yeats was interested in folklore and fairy tales. Yeats in time became a famous playwright and his muse Maud Gonne was the main inspiration behind his first play called The Countless Cathleen. The wealthy Lady Augusta Gregory was his patron and his life-long friend and together they set up the Irish Theatre which later became known as the Abbey Theatre.

The most important person in Yeat’s life was the beautiful Maud Gonne with whom he fell hopelessly in love. Gonne scorned Yeats’ constitutional nationalism as weak and unmanly and instead fell for the republican revolutionary hero John MacBride who had fought against the British in the Boer War. MacBride, fashionably moustachioed, dashing and macho, became a hate figure for the sensitive, intellectual and bespectacled Yeats.

After his often violent relationship with Gonne ended, MacBride later took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and was executed by British firing squad. Yeats came to grudgingly respect the man referred to as a ‘drunken, vain-glorious lout’ in his famous poem Easter 1916.á Yeats later had a brief love affair with Gonne and also proposed to her daughter Iseult. However Yeats was finally married to Georgie Hyde-Lees, a literary enthusiast with whom he had two children, Michael and Anne. The happily married couple shared a passion for the occult and mysticism.

After Yeats died in 1939 his body was later transported from France for burial in Drumcliffe, County Sligo. His headstone features a passage from his poem Under Ben Bulbin:

'Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!'

Later Poems is a collection of revised poems that Yeats wrote as a young poet and new poems composed as an older man. The book is divided into several sections including The Wind among the Reeds, The Old Age of Queen Maeve, In á the Seven Woods, Baile and Aillinn, The Shadowy Water, The Green Hamlet and Other Poems, Responsibilities, The Swans at Coole and Michael Robartes and the Dancer.

The major themes in Yeats’ poetry are the Irish countryside, fairy tales, peasant life and in later years mortality and Irish politics. The 1916 Easter Rising was a crucial turning point in Irish history followed by the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. As a nationalist Yeats was inspired by the idealism of the heroes of the Easter Rising such as McBride who followed in the footsteps of the 18th century United Irishmen such as Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. For his own part Yeats felt that Irish literature needed to be recognised as a vital part of Irish culture and he played a major part in setting up the London Irish Literature Society and National Literary Society.


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