William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, prose writer, and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of the Irish literary establishment, he helped to found the Abbey Theatre. In his later years served two terms as a Senator of the Irish Free State. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others.
Yeats was born in Sandymount, Ireland, and educated there and in London. He spent childhood holidays in County Sligo and studied poetry. From an early age when he became fascinated by Irish legends and the occult. These topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the 20th century.
His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and its slow-paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser, Percy Bysshe Shelley. From 1900, his poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
W.B. Yeats was one of the bigger poets of the 20 century.
He found his “genius” via ritual magic.
William Butler Yeats wrote about politics, heroes, love, and family. He also wrote about his visions, experience, and his own views about magic systems. Yeats used the term “genius”, or better the greek original term “δαίμων” literally. But many of the papers and studies about him use the term “genius” as a metaphor.
The essays, the letters, and the productions of the automatic writing he produced with his wife show not only a great poet but one of the greater Magicians of the 20 century. But this is not the case for the people studying his papers. Yeats almost never was judged or studies about his occult knowledge or his deep references for the occult in his work. Not only the academics are to blame for this but Yeats himself. After his publisher, A.H. Bullen told him that the Irish find his work ( specifically “The Secret Rose“) heterodox, Yeats started to write less about the occult.
The death of W.P.Yeats
He died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France, on 28 January 1939, aged 73. He was buried after a discreet and private funeral at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Attempts had been made at Roquebrune to dissuade the family from proceeding with the removal of the remains to Ireland due to the uncertainty of their identity. His body had earlier been exhumed and transferred to the ossuary.
Yeats and George had often discussed his death, and his express wish was that he be buried quickly in France with a minimum of fuss. According to George,
“His actual words were ‘If I die, bury me up there and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo’.
The person in charge of this operation for the Irish Government was Seán MacBride, son of Maud Gonne MacBride, and then Minister of External Affairs.
Yeats’ final resting place in the shadow of the Dartry Mountains, County Sligo
His epitaph is taken from the last lines of “Under Ben Bulben“, one of his final poems:
Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!