William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939


Biographical note

Irish poet and dramatist and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and founded the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief during its early years. In 1923, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation;" and he was the first Irishman so honored. Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers whose greatest works were completed after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower [1928] and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929).

Yeats was born and educated in Dublin, but spent his childhood in County Sligo. He studied poetry in his youth, and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and those slowly paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as to the lyricism of the Pre-Raphaelite poets.

From 1900, Yeats' 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. Over the years, Yeats adopted many different ideological positions, including, in the words of the critic Michael Valdez Moses, "those of radical nationalist, classical liberal, reactionary conservative and millenarian nihilist".


Collections of poetry

Individual Poems

  • The Fiddler of Dooney
  • Love and Death
  • Mad as the Mist and Snow
  • Pardon, old fathers
  • Those Dancing Days Are Gone
  • Swift's Epitaph
  • Under Ben Bulben
  • Anthologised:
  • Yeats, W. B. "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" and "The Fiddler of Dooney" Harry Clarke (ill.). The year's at the spring, 1920.


  • The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows (1893)
  • Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902)
  • The Countess Cathleen (1892-1912)
  • Deirdre (1907)
  • At the Hawk's Well (1916)
  • Calvary (1921)
  • Four Plays for Dancers (1921)
  • The Cat and the Moon (1924)
  • The Hour Glass [1903]
  • The Hour-Glass; Cathleen ni Houlihan; The Pot of Broth, plays [1904]
  • The King's Threashold (1904)
  • The Land of Heart's Desire (1894)
  • Mosada: A dramatic poem / W. B. Yeats [1886]
  • Oedipus Rex (1928, translation of Sophocles' work)
  • On Baile's Strand (1905)
  • The Pot of Broth
  • Purgatory (1938)
  • The Resurrection (1931)
  • The Shadowy Waters (1900)
  • The Words upon the Window Pane (1934)
  • The Herne's Egg, and other plays (1938)
  • A full moon in March
  • The king of the great clock tower
  • Plays and controversies (1924)
  • Plays in prose and verse (1924)
  • Last poems & plays (1940)
  • Where there is nothing . . . (1903)
  • The unicorn from the stars, and other plays (1908)
  • The unicorn from the stars
  • Cathleen Ni Houlihan
  • The hour-glass
  • Collaborative one-acts plays, 1901-1903




  • Introduction to Gitanjali (1913)
  • Dramatis personae
  • Letters to the new island.
  • The Letters of W. B. Yeats.
  • Explorations
  • The Celtic twilight and a selection of early poems
  • The cutting of an agate (1912)
  • Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry [1888]
  • "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", poem first published in the National Observer, 13 December [1890]
  • Representative Irish Tales [1891]
  • John Sherman and Dhoya, two stories [1891]
  • Irish Fairy Tales / edited by William Butler Yeats;; illustrated by Jack B. Yeats [1892]
  • The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics, includes "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" (see 1890, above) (Lyrics from this book appear in Yeats' collected editions in a section titled "The Rose" [1893] but Yeats never published a book titled "The Rose") [1892]
  • The Rose, poems [1893]
  • The Land of Heart's Desire [1894]
  • Poems, verse and drama; the first edition of his collected poems [1895]
  • A Book of Irish Verse: Selected from modern writers with an introduction and notes by W. B. Yeats [1895]
  • The Tables of the Law. The Adoration of the Magi, privately printed; The Tables of the Law first published in The Savoy, November 1896; a regular edition of this book appeared in 1904 [1897]
  • Crossways [1889]
  • The Shadowy Waters, poems [1900]
  • Cathleen Ní Houlihan, play [1902]
  • Ideas of Good and Evil [1903]
  • Where There is Nothing: Being Volume I of Plays for an Irish Theatre [1903]
  • The King's Threshold; and On Baile's Strand [1904]
  • The Tables of the Law; The Adoration of the Magi, a privately printed edition appeared in 1897 [1904]
  • Poems, 1899 –1905, verse and plays [1906]
  • Deirdre [1907]
  • Discoveries: A Volume of Essays [1907]
  • Poems: Second Series [1910]
  • Synge and the Ireland of his time [1911]
  • The Cutting of an Agate [1912]
  • Selections from the Writings of Lord Dunsany / edited by W. B. Yeats [1912]
  • A Coat [1912]
  • Poems Written in Discouragement [1913]
  • Easter 1916 [1916]
  • Per Amica Silentia Lunae / W. B. Yeats
  • Per Amica Silentia Lunae [1918]
  • In Memory of Major Robert Gregory [1918]
  • The Leaders of the Crowd [1918]
  • Two Plays for Dancers [1919]
    plays; became part of Four Plays for Dancers, published in 1921
  • The Second Coming [1920]
  • Four Plays for Dancers, plays; includes contents of Two Plays for Dancers, published in 1919, together with At the Hawk's Well and Calvary [1921]
  • Four Years [1921]
  • Later Poems [1922]
  • The Player Queen, play [1922]
  • Plays in Prose and Verse, plays [1922]
  • Seven Poems and a Fragment [1922]
  • Plays and Controversies [1923]
  • The Cat and the Moon, and Certain Poems, poems and drama [1924]
  • Essays [1924]
  • A Vision A, nonfiction, a much revised edition appeared in 1937, and a final revised edition was published in 1956 [1925]
  • Estrangement [1926]
  • Autobiographies of William Butler Yeats, nonfiction; see also, Autobiography 1938 [1926]
  • October Blast [1927]
  • Stories of Red Hanrahan and the Secret Rose, poetry and fiction [1927]
  • The Resurrection, a short play first performed in 1934 [1927]
  • The Tower, includes Sailing to Byzantium [1928]
  • The Death of Synge, and Other Passages from an Old Diary, poems [1928]
  • A Packet for Ezra Pound, poems [1929]
  • The Winding Stair published by Fountain Press in a signed limited edition, now exceedingly rare [1929]
  • Words for Music Perhaps, and Other Poems [1932]
  • Collected Poems [1933]
  • The Winding Stair and Other Poems [1933]
  • Collected Plays [1934]
  • The King of the Great Clock Tower, poems [1934]
  • Wheels and Butterflies, drama [1934]
  • The Words Upon the Window Pane, drama [1934]
  • Dramatis Personae [1935]
  • A Full Moon in March, poems [1935]
  • A Vision B, nonfiction, a much revised edition of the original, which appeared in 1925; reissued with minor changes in 1956, and with further changes in 1962 [1937]
  • Essays 1931 to 1936 [1937]
  • Autobiography [1938]
    includes Reveries over Childhood and Youth (published in 1914), The Trembling of the Veil (1922), Dramatis Personae (1935), The Death of Synge (1928), and other pieces; see also Autobiographies (1926)
  • The Herne's Egg, drama [1938]
  • New Poems [1938]
  • Last Poems and Two Plays poems and drama (posthumous) [1939]
  • On the Boiler, essays, poems and a play (posthumous) [1939]

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