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Happy birthday, Yeats!

books Updated: Jun 13, 2009 13:51 IST

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William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865–Jan 28, 1939) was an Irish poet and dramatist and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms.

WB YeatsHe was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn 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 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.

Yeats' first significant poem was The Isle of Statues. His first solo publication was the pamphlet Mosada: A Dramatic Poem (1886), followed by the collection The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889).

In December 1923, Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

By the spring of 1925, Yeats had published A Vision. He had been appointed to the first Irish Senate in 1922, and was re-appointed for a second term in 1925.

Yeats is generally considered to be one of the twentieth century's key English language poets. He can be considered a Symbolist poet in that he used allusive imagery and symbolic structures throughout his career.

Yeats choose words and assembled them so that in addition to a particular meaning they suggest other abstract thoughts that may seem more significant and resonant. His use of symbols is usually something physical which is used both to be itself and to suggest other, perhaps immaterial, timeless qualities.

He died in 1939 at the age of 73.