About William Butler Yeats

The drinking song

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) is considered as one of the key figures in Irish and British literature. He was also known as an Irish senator and one of the founders of the Irish Literary Revival.

About William Butler YeatsYeats, often referred as W.B. Yeats was born in Sandymount (IRE) and followed his education in London. Most of his childhood he spent the holidays in County Sligo. At an early age he became interested in poetry and wanted to read about this as much as he could.

His first publication was in 1889 and there would be many more. In 1923 he was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work.

Some of his work is quite controversial. The poem witch I will not cover called Leda and the Swan tells the story about the rape of a young woman by the Greek god Zeus. In his other work, there is always a sense of melancholy present. As if he wants the readers to be aware to not make the same mistakes he did. For instance, the poem A drinking song is a sad poem of someone who realises that drinking didn’t get him anywhere.

The drinking song

The drinking song

By William Butler Yeats

WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.


Poetry was a great source of inspiration to write about. Even about someone, in this case a girl, who writes her poetry.

A Crazed Girl

By William Butler Yeats

THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea.’


The controversy went on after the First World War, when Yeats supported the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Yeats believed there was no future for this thing called democracy. The irony is that the words of Yeats wouldn’t have probably not be allowed if Ireland was a nation with the same political structure as Italy at that time.

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

By William Butler Yeats

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.



In a nation lead by a dictator, there isn’t much room to complain about poverty. Yeats didn’t fully realise what the impact of fascism would be on the world. He didn’t live long enough to watch the growth of another nation that based it’s believes on fascism and made an own mixture of fascism and racism. Yeats died on January 28 1939, a few months before the Second World War started.

Should we just ignore this poet for his believes? That is a though to answer question. The words were written in a different time. In the light of the events that would follow, these words can be seen as a forecast of even darker times. You be the judge. Tell us what you think.

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