W B Yeats

When You Are Old
  • When You Are Old

    • W B Yeats

    From the publication of his first poems at the age of twenty, to his Nobel Prize in 1923, W. B. Yeats grew from an aspiring poet spellbound by the mystical life, to an Irish senator crafting modernist poetry around a complex system of symbolism. When You are Old: Early Poems and Fairy Tales returns to the younger Yeats, encountering him through Irish mythology and much-beloved poems like "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" and "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" that made him popular during his own lifetime. The poems, plays, and prose collected here present Yeats as the 1890s aesthete who dressed as a dandy, collected Irish folklore, dabbled in magic, and wrote beautiful poems for his beloved, steeped in the late-Victorian aesthetics of the symbolist and decadence movements, as well as early modernism. Approaching his early verse and tales with innocent candor as if reading Yeats for the first time, this volume proffers lush images of western Ireland full of faeries and otherworldly beings, framed within a profound fascination with aestheticism and the Arts and Crafts Movement, all giving expression to Yeats's early nationalist sympathies.

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin on 13 June 1865. He studied to become a painter, like his father, but abandoned that profession in 1886 in favour of literature. He was heavily involved in the movement for an Irish literary revival and founded The Irish Literary Theatre with Lady Gregory, becoming its chief playwright. Yeats' interest in Irish national and traditional myths and imagery can be seen in his early poetry, such as The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889), and he was also influenced by his enduring unrequited love for the young heiress Maude Gonne. In 1913 Yeats met the poet Ezra Pound and from that point his writing begins to move away from the earler Pre-Raphelite style towards modernism. Yeats married Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917 and with the help of his wife, and informed by his interest in mysticism, he developed a system of 'automatic writing' which profoundly affected the poetry of his later years. Yeats served as a senator of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1928 and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. He died in the south of France in January 1939.