'Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!'


William Butler Yeats is buried in the Protestant churchyard, Drumcliff, Co. Sligo, Ireland.

Yeats' Grave at Drumcliff

Yeats was born in Dublin into an artistic family. His father John B. Yeats was a painter and so was his brother Jack B. Yeats. Yeats himself studied at the Dublin School of Art, but at the age of 21 he abandoned art in favour of a literary career.

His early work was influenced by Shelley, Spenser, the Pre-Raphaelites and by his love of Irish folklore and legend. His early collections include Crossways (1889), The Rose (1893) and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899).

His unrequited love for the beautiful revolutionary Maude Gonne inspired much of his finest love poetry. Yeats proposed to her on a number of occasions but she refused him. He later proposed to her daughter and was refused again. In 1917 he married Georgie Hyde-Lees who was an exponent of automatic writing.

Yeats' work continued to develop throughout his career becoming more condensed, more cynical and more concerned with contemporary politics. Although Yeats was abroad during the 1916 Easter Rising it had a major affect upon him inspiring the famous lines: ' All changed, changed utterly:/ A terrible beauty is born'. His later collections include: The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair (1929) and Last Poems (1939).

Yeats died in the South of France on 28 January, 1939 and was buried at Roquebrune Cemetery. In 1948 his body was exhumed and brought back to Drumcliff. However, there have been suggestions that the remains brought back from France were not those of Yeats but, instead, those of a French dentist. As Yeats requested in his last poem - he was buried within sight of Ben Bulben.

Yeats' grandfather had been the rector at Drumcliff between 1811-46.

Headstone of W.B. Yeats


W.B. Yeats


In 1891 Yeats helped to found the Irish Literary Society and was also instrumental in setting up, with the help of Lady Gregory, the Irish National Theatre. 

In 1923 Yeats received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

W.H. Auden wrote a moving memorial for him entitled In Memory of W.B.Yeats - containing the well known line:  'The day of his death was a dark cold day'.

See also Celtic Twilight.

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Down by the Salley Gardens

Yeats Society Sligo






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