William Butler Yeats was born in Sandymount, County Dublin, Ireland in 1865. He spent his childhood in Country Sligo, and was educated in London, but returned to Dublin at the age of fifteen with the intention of pursuing painting. However, he quickly discovered he preferred poetry, and became involved with the Celtic Revival, an Irish movement resisting the cultural influence of English rule during the Victorian period. Throughout his life, much of Yeats’ work was included by Irish mythology and folklore, as well as various types of mysticism and occultism.
Yeats’ first verse play, Mosada, was published in 1886. Over the next few years, he continued to write, and mingled with many literary luminaries of the day, such as George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. His The Wanderings of Usheen and other Poems was published in 1889, and brought him some attention from critics. In the late 1890s, he became involved with The Abbey Theatre – the institution which propelled him to fame and success. As its chief playwright, Yeats staged a number of his best-remembered productions during the years up to 1911, including The Countess Cathleen (1892), The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894) and The King’s Threshold (1904).
From 1910 onwards, Yeats focussed more on poetry. The collections of lyrical poetry he penned during his last decades - such as The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), and Last Poems and Plays (1940) – made him one of the most acclaimed and influential poets in Europe. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1939, aged 73, and is now regarded as one of the twentieth century's key English language poets, and a master of the traditional forms.