The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Yeates, W.B.
William Butler Yeats (b. 13 June 1865 – d. 28 January 1939)
was an Irish poet, dramatist and mystic.
Yeats, who was born to a Protestant family, was one of the driving forces behind the
Irish Literary Revival and was co-founder of the Abbey Theatre. He was awarded the Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1923 for what the Nobel Committee described as "his always inspired poetry,
which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation".
When Yeats was young, his family moved first from Sandymount, County Dublin, to County Sligo,
and then to London to enable his father John to further his career as an artist.
At first, the Yeats children were educated at home. Their mother, who was homesick
for Sligo, entertained them with stories and folktales from her native county.
In 1877, William entered the Godolphin school, which he attended for four years.
He did not distinguish himself academically. For financial reasons, the family returned
to Dublin toward the end of 1880. He spent a great deal
of time at his father's studio, meeting many of the city's artists and writers.
His early work tended toward romantic lushness best described by the title
of his 1893 collection The Celtic Twilight.
Yeats' poetry drew heavily on Irish myth and folklore and drew on the diction and coloring of
pre-Raphaelite poetry. His major influence in these years - and probably throughout the
rest of his career as well - was Percy Bysshe Shelley. In a late essay on Shelley he
wrote, "I have re-read Prometheus Unbound... and it seems to me to have an
even more certain place than I had thought among the sacred books of the world."
Yeats' first significant poem was The Isle of Statues, a fantasy work
that took Edmund Spenser for its poetic model. It appeared in Dublin University Review
and was never republished. In 1888 he published Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry.
His first major book of poetry was The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889).
The long title poem, the first that he would not disown in his later in his life, was based on
the poems of the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. This poem, which took two years to complete,
shows the influence of Ferguson and the Pre-Raphaelites. His other early poems are lyrics
on the themes of love or mystical and esoteric subjects.
The Yeats family had returned to London in 1887, and in 1890 Yeats co-founded the
Rhymer's Club with Ernest Rhys. This was a group of like-minded poets who met
regularly and published anthologies in the early 1890s.
He much later became involved with Irish nationalism and moved to a harder, more modernist style in his poetry.
Despite this, Yeats had a life-long interest in mysticism, spiritualism, occultism and astrology.
Yeats read extensively on these subjects all through his life. He wrote in 1892, 'If I had not made
magic my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would
"The Countess Kathleen" have ever come to exist. The mystical life is the centre of all that I
do and all that I think and all that I write.'"
His later poetry and plays, Yeats wrote in a more personal vein. His subjects included his
son and daughter and the experience of growing old. Yeats died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour,
in Menton, France on 28 January 1939, aged 73. The last poem he wrote was the Arthurian-themed "The Black Tower".
Soon afterward, Yeats was first buried at Roquebrune, until, in accordance with his
final wish, his body was moved to Drumcliffe, County Sligo in September, 1948,
on the corvette Irish Macha.
Forrest Reid. W.B. Yeats: A Critical Study (1915)
Norman Jeffares. W.B. Yeats: A New Biography (1989)