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"A Drinking Song" by William Butler Yeats, Including a Brief Biography

Updated on May 21, 2013
William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)


A Drinking Song

by William Butler Yeats

(c. 1910)

WINE comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That's all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and sigh.

A Drinking Song is one of my favorite poems and not due to the fact that it's a short read. As you read each line aloud slowly, you're in the story. You can visualize the milleau by closing your eyes and before you realize it, you have this piece memorized. With this poem, I have never really attempted to overanalyze it. I think it's a short powerful poem about adoration, love, or a crush.

Yeats (pronounced "Yay-tz") born in Dublin in 1865, is still a very famous Irish poet. He was also a playwright and statesman. His father was a lawyer, or barrister as referenced in Ireland or England, and he gave up practicing to become an artist. That's about the time the family moved to London around 1867. His mother was from a wealthy shipping family from western Ireland.

During his early years, he studied the poetry of William Blake. He lived in London with his family in 1867 and returned to Dublin in 1881. He also studied art and being fascinated with mysticism, he also studied the writing of Emanuel Swedenborg (18th Century scientist, philosopher and theologian). The primary focus of Yeats’ poems is his birth land of Ireland, including the country's history and its culture. He was also influenced by Ezra Pound.

Yeats, through his whole life, was intrigued with supernatural subjects and mysticism. He formed the Dublin Lodge of the Hermetic Society in 1886. He debuted as a writer in 1885 when his first poems were published in the Dublin University Review. Yeats carried interest in the revival of Celtic identity and folktales. In 1888, his collaboration with George Russell and Douglas Hyde produced Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry involving legends and tales of the Irish.

Thoor Ballylee: Home of William Butler Yeats
Thoor Ballylee: Home of William Butler Yeats | Source
W. Butler Yeats (1923)
W. Butler Yeats (1923)
Grave marker of William Butler Yeats at Drumcliffe
Grave marker of William Butler Yeats at Drumcliffe

Yeats' Rejection by Maud Gonne and Marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lee

He met actress and Irish revolutionary, Maud Gonne (1866-1953), in 1889 and she would become a major part of Yeats’ life. When she married another, Major John MacBride, in 1903, Yeats was incited to write No Second Troy. Later, MacBride and Gonne separated and MacBride was executed by the British during the Irish uprising in 1916. Gonne had previously turned down several proposal by Yeats. In fact, he proposed to her again in 1916 and she declined. Hence, No Second Troy.

After 1896, Yeats reformed the Irish Literary Society and in Dublin, the National Literary Society in an attempt to promote the New Irish Library. In the following year, he founded the Irish Literary Theatre with Lady Gregory and Isabella Augusta. He would work as the theatre’s director for the remainder of his life which included the plays he had written.

In 1917, he purchased Thoor Ballyle which was a stone tower he restored. It became his summer home. In this same year, he married Georgie Hyde-Lee with whom he shared a son and daughter. It was through Ezra that he had met his wife who had practiced automatic writing which was the act of scripting out on paper subconscious thought or that which is communicated through a medium. Nobody really knows how "automatic" his wife's writing was and perhaps to alleviate Yeats' discontent, the pen was put to the paper displaying communications in such a manner to relieve whatever was ailing him. Whatever the case, he had written in a letter how happy he was and that maybe his past rejections with women was a result, in part, because he was supposed to marrie Georgie. All in all, it's interesting to read about.

Yeats had a very interesting life and this material is really a brief synopsis of his world, including his personal life. He almost had an obsession about the spiritual world and another popular poem of his is The Second Coming (published 1921) which was written after World War I and depicts what is to come. He had always been intrigued by the occult because he was always looking for answers. Yeats definitely had his view on the human experience as so many of us do. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Towards the end of Yeats’ life, The Oxford Book of Verse was published in 1936; New Poems in 1938 and he worked on A Vision. Yeats died in 1939 in Menton, France. His poem, Under Ben Buiben, reflects language that appears, in part, on his gravestone.

No marble, no conventional phrase; On limestone quarried near the spot

By his command these words are cut: Cast a cold eye

On life, on death.

Horseman; pass by!


Submit a Comment

  • ytsenoh profile image

    Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    PDX, I agree. Good for you. "A Drinking Song" is definitely one of my favorites. Thanks for stopping by.

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    Been reading lots of Yeats lately. He's very good

  • ytsenoh profile image

    Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Coolman, thanks much for your comment. You have an incredible blog too, awesome pics.

  • Coolmon2009 profile image

    Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

    Nice article on W.B. Yeats. I like your selection of pictures too.

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    Thanks for sharing with me (us) Yeats

  • ytsenoh profile image

    Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    PDX, Thanks very much for your time and kind comment.

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    Thanks for this article. Very informative. The poem is really good. I enjoy the rhymes of die eye and sigh and the half rhymes of truTH mouTH and mouTH. Voted up and interesting!

  • ytsenoh profile image

    Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    chanroth, thanks so much for your comment. You have a good night also, although it's earlier where you are than where I am! My best to you.

  • chanroth profile image

    chanroth 6 years ago from California, USA

    Very wonderful write! I enjoy it very much because it has highly valuable information. I have voted up and useful/interesting! Have a good night!

    10pm in CA.


  • ytsenoh profile image

    Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    raciniwa, thanks very much for your comment.

  • raciniwa profile image

    raciniwa 6 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

    thanks for sharing us a glimpse of Yeats...we used to study him when i was in college but it was long ago...

  • ytsenoh profile image

    Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Thank you anupma, feenix and makusr for your time and comments. I very much enjoy history of the older poets, including their oddities, quests, eccentric or eclectic behaviors, ah, the list could go on, but they paved the way for those who followed in their steps. Have a great weekend!

  • makusr profile image

    Manoj Kumar Srivastava 6 years ago from India


    Greetings from MAKUSR. This is very informative article on Yeats. Quite a good read. Useful.

    Lots of Love,


  • feenix profile image

    feenix 6 years ago

    Hello, wtsenoh,

    This is a useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting post, and thank you very much for writing and publishing it.

    For me, the article was a delightful read and very educational.

  • anupma profile image

    Dr Anupma Srivastava 6 years ago from India

    I am very fond of W.B. Yeats. He is really a great poet. His works especially poems are the best. Nice hub.


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