Today is the birthday of the Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (b. 1865 – 1939). He was the brother of the artist Jack Butler Yeats (see my post on him over at echostains) Dublin born and educated, the poet spent his childhood in Sligo. Yeats was to become a real driving force behind the Irish Literacy revival.
Yeats interest in Irish folk law and the occult resonate throughout his earlier poetry which is tends to be slow-paced and shows the influences of Percy Byshe Shelley, the Pre Raphaelite poets and Spencer. His later poetry tends to be more physical but I feel that although the poetry it is perhaps more earthed, the poet still ponders the question of mortality and seeks to reach fundamental truths.
Yeats has the honour of being the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was one of the original founders of the Abby Theatre and at one time, also served as its chief.
Yeats came from a very artistic family. His brother Jack was a highly regarded painter and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Susan Mary became involved with the Arts and Crafts movement.
Much has been written about this fascinating poet and his interesting life, but his poems speak for themselves. They still stand today as some of the most lyrical, imaginative poetry ever written, in my opinion.
Here is a short film of four short poems by William Butler Yates;-
Never give all the Heart
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
The Irish Airman Forsees his Death
All four are read very movingly in the rich accent of Quincy Dubois and accompanied by the beautiful music of Colin Reid (who I have just discovered). I was transported by the unique combination of poem, voice, music and images in this video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
More about the life o f William Butler Yeats here
Poems by William Butler Yeats here
Video by quincydubois – with thanks!