Born in Dublin, in 1865, the firstborn of John Butler Yeats and Susan Mary Yeats. In 1877, W.B. entered Godolphin school, which he attended for four years, after which he continued his education at Erasmus Smith High School, in Dublin. For a time (from 1884 - 1886), he attended the Metropolitan School of Art.
In 1885, Yeats' first poems were published, in the Dublin University Review.
In 1889, Yeats met Maud Gonne[?], an actress and a figure in the Irish nationalist movement who was to have a significant effect on his poetry and his life ever after. Two years later, he proposed to Maud, but was rejected. In 1896, he met Lady Gregory, and began an affair with Olivia Shakespeare, which ended one year later. Lady Gregory encouraged Yeats' nationalism and convinced him to continue focusing on writing drama. In 1899, Yeats again proposed to Maud, and was again rejected. He prosed again in 1900, and again in 1901; in 1903, Maud Gonne married Irish nationalist John MacBride, and Yeats visited America on a lecture tour.
Yeats spent the summer of 1917 with Maud Gonne, and proposed to Maud's daughter, but was rejected. In September, he proposed to George Hyde-Lees, was accepted, and the two were married on the 20th of October.
Yeats' early poetry drew heavily on Irish myth and legend, however his later work was engaged with more contemporary issues. His style also underwent a dramatic transformation. His early work is lushly Victorian in tone, self-consciously ornate, and at times stilted; his later work is supple and muscular in its rhythms and sometimes harshly modernist. Yeats spanned the transition from the nineteenth century into twentieth-century modernism in poetry much as Pablo Picasso did in painting.
He was highly interested in mysticism, and attended his first seance[?] in 1886. Later, Yeats became heavily involved with hermeticist and theosophical beliefs, and in 1900 he became head of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which he joined in 1890. That same year, maintaining his interest in the literary arts, Yeats cofounded the Rhymer's Club with John Rhys[?].
All his life, Yeats maintained friendships with a number of poets and literary figures; for a time in 1913, Ezra Pound served as Yeats' secretary. Yeats was also known and respected by Oscar Wilde, J.M. Synge[?], T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, among others.
Yeats, after suffering from a variety of illnesses for a number of years, died in France eight months before the outbreak of World War II. His body was interred at Roquebrune[?], until it was moved to Drumecliff, Sligo in September, 1948.
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