Yeats, William Butler

Tagged: Author

(1865-1939) Irish playwright and poet, one of the two or three most significant twentieth century poets to write in English, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1923. Unlike his close contemporary Wyndham Lewis, he was relatively immune to the kind of early twentieth century modernism sympathetic to pre-World War One Futurist epiphanies of the Machine (see Filippo Tommaso Marinetti), nor was he visibly influenced by the milder 1930s Futurism that marked the early work of a later poet like W H Auden. Yeats is of considerable importance to Irish folklore and fantasy [for further details see his entry in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; his importance to sf is relatively narrow but intense, almost solely restricted to the apocalyptic message of "The Second Coming" (written 1919; November 1920 The Dial), the two-hundredth poem in his official canon, a dark vision of the fate of the world in the aftermath of World War One, the unspoken catastrophe that awakens the "rough beast". The poem has increasingly been understood as an intense prolepsis of the dark future ahead (see End of the World; Religion; World War Two); a prolepsis grounded, it cannot be forgotten, in the disaster that had already occurred. The central terror of the poem may be a sense that for Yeats here memory and prolepsis are one. [JC]

see also: Equilibrium.

William Butler Yeats

born Sandymount, near Dublin, Ireland: 13 June 1865

died Roquebrune, France: 28 January 1939

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