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William Butler Yeats Trivia

William Butler Yeats Trivia Quizzes

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One of the most important figures in Irish literature, not only did Yeats write poetry that led to the award of a Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1923, but he also was one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre and served two terms as an Irish Senator.
5 quizzes and 52 trivia questions.
  W B Yeats Poetry Collection   top quiz  
Collection Quiz
 12 Qns
Can you pick out the poems written by W B Yeats from those by other poets in this Collection quiz?
Easier, 12 Qns, rossian, Mar 20 24
rossian editor
Mar 20 24
160 plays
  William Butler Yeats   great trivia quiz  
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
Winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature, his poems are a staple of high school poetry textbooks. What do you recall of his writings?
Average, 10 Qns, looney_tunes, Jan 03 23
Recommended for grades: 10,11,12
looney_tunes editor
Jan 03 23
344 plays
  The poetry of W.B. Yeats    
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
The 1923 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Yeats wrote poetry which chronicled both Ireland's rise to independence and its legend and myth. His poems have also found their way into more modern settings.
Difficult, 10 Qns, kevinatilusa, Nov 12 15
1214 plays
  W.B. Yeats and His Times    
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
The Anglo-Irish William Butler Yeats lived from June 13, 1865 to January 28, 1939. Considered one of the great modern poets, Yeats lived in a time of great national and international upheaval. It found its way into his poetry.
Tough, 10 Qns, Craterus, Aug 12 18
Aug 12 18
185 plays
  Poetry Of William Butler Yeats   popular trivia quiz  
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
I give you some lines from the works of William Butler Yeats and you give me the title. I have provided some interesting facts for each question about the poems in question and the life of Yeats.
Average, 10 Qns, gcholden, Sep 25 14
740 plays
Related Topics
  Poetry [Literature] (160 quizzes)

William Butler Yeats Trivia Questions

1. Yeats was in love with an Irish nationalist who inspired the poem "No Second Troy". Who was this woman?

From Quiz
W.B. Yeats and His Times

Answer: Maud Gonne

Yeats was deeply involved in the question of Irish independence from Britain. Gonne was a fanatical Irish revolutionary and was one of the original founders of Sinn Fein. She was also quite beautiful and a talented actress of her day. It appears that Yeats' love was never fully requited. In "No Second Troy", Yeats indicates "that she filled my days with misery" and he questioned whether, given her "high and solitary and most stern" way, she could be any different than what she was: "Why was there another Troy for her to burn?" She must have been an extraordinary woman to be compared to Helen of Troy.

2. From which poem are these the last four lines? "Have you made greatness your companion, Although it be for children that you sigh; These are the clouds about the fallen sun, The majesty that shuts his burning eye."

From Quiz Poetry Of William Butler Yeats

Answer: These Are The Clouds

In the seventh line of this poem, "And therefore, friend, if your great race were run", Yeats refers to his friend Lady Gregory. She and Yeats first met on a visit to Lady Gregory's neighbour Edward Martyn. The friendship between the three led to the founding of the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899.

3. Which poem of Yeats provided the title for a book by Chinua Achebe?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: The Second Coming

'Things Fall Apart' was the title of Achebe's work.

4. Down by the Salley Gardens, Easter 1916, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, Sailing to Byzantium, The Wild Swans at Coole, An Irish Airman Foresees his Death, He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, The Stolen Child, Leda and the Swan, The Second Coming, The Ghost of Roger Casement, When You are Old

From Quiz W B Yeats Poetry Collection


'Down by the Salley Gardens' was published as part of a collection of poems in 1889. Yeats stated that he was trying to recreate a traditional song regularly sung by an old woman who could only remember three lines. It tells the story of a young man who loses his love by being too impatient and has been set to music. 'Easter, 1916' should have a comma, but that would confuse the system. Dating from later in 1916, Yeats commemorates the rising against the British by Irish nationalists, many of who were executed when the rebellion failed. The poem ends with the lines 'Are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born'. The 1888 poem 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' begins with the lines 'I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree'. It dates from 1888, and refers to an uninhabited island in a lake (lough) in the northwest of the Republic of Ireland. Yeats remembered seeing it during his childhood and it inspired the poem. 'Sailing to Byzantium' begins with another famous line, 'That is no country for old men', used by Cormac Carthy for his novel 'No Country for Old Men' and the 2007 film by the Coen Brothers based on the novel. The poem was first published in 1927 with the words reflecting Yeats' feelings about growing old. Dating from 1917, the poem 'The Wild Swans at Coole' was written when Yeats was struggling with his health and was taking solace in the lasting beauty of nature. He was staying at Coole Park, in County Galway at the time. 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death' was written during the First World War but Yeats delayed publication until after the end of the war as it has some political commentary. As has been mentioned, Ireland was trying to win independence from Britain so there some conflict about whether Irish nationals should fight for Britain. The poem was eventually published in 1919. The title of 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' is often given as 'Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven', as Aedh is the poor young man who wishes he had more wealth to enable his beloved to walk on the finest fabrics. The short poem ends with the line 'Tread softy because you tread on my dreams'. Written in 1886, 'The Stolen Child' is one of Yeats's earlier poems, first published in 1889. The poem is based on the belief that fairies kidnap human children and tells the story of a young boy being lured away by fairies, probably to his death by drowning. Yeats composed the poem 'Leda and the Swan' in 1923 based on the Greek myth of the conception of Helen of Troy by the rape of Leda by Zeus in the form of a swan. The language and imagery is quite graphic and Yeats also alludes to the future disasters which lie in wait during the Trojan War. 'The Second Coming' was written by Yeats in 1919 and first published the following year. Although the poem may not be as well known as some of the others, it does contain the well known line 'Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold' the first part of which was used by Chinua Achebe for his 1958 novel. Lines from the poem have been used in many other works, in novels, films and television shows. Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist who worked for the British government. During the First World War he used his position to recruit prisoners of war to fight for Irish independence. He was hanged as a traitor in 1916. Yeats was fiercely critical of the British actions and 'The Ghost of Roger Casement' is one of the poems he wrote about the incident. The final Yeats poem in the list is from 1893. 'When You are Old' is addressed to a woman, telling her to look back on her life when she is old and think about those who professed their love for her. He stresses that only one man truly loved her but he refers to that love having been lost. The poem is widely believed to have been written to Maud Gonne, the actress Yeats yearned for throughout his life but without his love being reciprocated. The incorrect options are 'Death of a Naturalist' by Seamus Heaney, 'Easter Day' by Oscar Wilde, 'Ozymandias' by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'Preludes' by T S Eliot, 'The Sick Rose' by William Blake and 'London 1802' by William Wordsworth.

5. In which European city was William Butler Yeats born?

From Quiz William Butler Yeats

Answer: Dublin

One of the foremost figures in Irish literature during the late 19th and early 20th century, William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin on 13 June 1865. He came from an Anglo-Irish family, and developed a fascination with Irish legends as a youth. They featured prominently in his 19th century work, and remain as background to his more realistic later work. In 1889 Yeats published his first collection of poems, 'The Wanderings of Oisín and Other Poems'. The title poem is an epic narrative of a conversation between Oisín and Saint Patrick, in which the aging Fenian warrior and Ireland's greatest poet, reflects on his life, and the struggle to maintain the ancient faith in the face of Christianity.

6. In this poem, Yeats described his feelings and those of others in Ireland after this uprising against British rule and the death of four people that he knew. What's the poem?

From Quiz W.B. Yeats and His Times

Answer: Easter, 1916

The Easter Uprising occurred on April 24, 1916 with an attack on the Dublin General Post Office and other strategic points by Irish nationalists. It was crushed by April 29 and led to the summary execution by British forces of 15 leaders. Among those executed were Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, James Connolly and John MacBride, all of whom Yeats knew. Although supportive of Irish independence, Yeats was ambivalent about the violence used (he was a member of the Anglo-Irish elite, after all), believing that the long struggle had turned "hearts with one purpose" into a "stone to trouble the living stream." The martyrdom of his friends had, however, turned most of Ireland against the British; thus "a terrible beauty [was] born."

7. Complete the line from 'Easter 1916': All changed, changed utterly, a _________ ________ is born?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: terrible beauty

This served as the end of several stanzas of that poem.

8. From which poem are these lines? "Swear by what the sages spoke Round the Mareotic Lake That the Witch of Atlas knew, Spoke and set the cocks a-crow."

From Quiz Poetry Of William Butler Yeats

Answer: Under Ben Bulben

The final passage of this poem is cut on Yeats' gravestone. It reads: "Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman, pass by!"

9. Which 2001 movie featured prominently a line from Yeats' Poem 'Stolen Child'?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: A.I.

'Come Away oh Human Child, with a Fairy Hand in Hand' is on Professor Hobby's office door, as well as a quote by Dr. Know.

10. What is the name of the legendary Irish giant featured in several Yeats poems and plays?

From Quiz William Butler Yeats

Answer: Cuchulain

Cú Chulainn was a legendary Irish hero and demigod who featured in Manx and Scottish, as well as Irish, mythology. According to the Ulster Cycle myths, he gained his nickname, the Hound of Ulster, as a child when he killed the watch dog of Chulainn, and offered to guard the smith's house until a replacement dog could be bred and trained. The tales of his prowess in battle are many, and do not always agree with each other. He became a symbol of the Irish Nationalist movement. Yeats wrote prefaces for 'Cuchulain of Muirthemne', a 1904 compilation of Irish mythology produced by his friend Lady Gregory. Cuchulain also appeared in a number of Yeats' other writings, including the plays 'On Baile's Strand' (1904), 'The Green Helmet' (1910), 'At the Hawk's Well' (1917), 'The Only Jealousy of Emer' (1919) and 'The Death of Cuchulain' (1939), and the poems 'Cuchulain's Fight with the Sea' (1892) and 'Cuchulain Comforted' (1939).

11. Yeat's tombstone contains the concluding lines of which of his poems?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: Under Ben Bulben

'Cast a cold eye On Life, on death Horseman, pass by!'

12. In 1904 Yeats was one of those who established the _____ Theatre in Dublin. What word is missing from the name of the theatre?

From Quiz William Butler Yeats

Answer: Abbey

In 1897, Yeats, Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn produced a manifesto for the establishment of an Irish Literary Theatre, and a group dedicated to that task was set up with the assistance of George Moore in 1899. They produced a number of plays, but collapsed in 1901 due to lack of funding. Another group, the Irish National Theatre Society, was organised, and they managed to acquire a property which opened as The Abbey Theatre in December of 1904. Yeats's one-act plays 'On Baile's Strand' and 'Cathleen ni Houlihan' were featured on the opening night of the Abbey, and he remained involved with the theatre until his death, both as a contributing playwright and as a member of the board.

13. Yeats penned a poem in 1921 about the transient nature of human creation that begins as follows: "Many ingenious lovely things are gone that seemed sheer miracle to the multitude." What's this classic?

From Quiz W.B. Yeats and His Times

Answer: Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

Some of those "ingenious things gone" were "Phidias' famous ivories" of classical Athens and "all the golden grasshoppers and bees" of Egypt's pharaohs. But Yeats understood that even his generation had its "pretty toys" which were also doomed for the ash heap of history. That one day, "A law indifferent to blame or praise, bribe or threat, Habits that made old wrong melt down as were wax in sun's rays, Public opinion ripening for so long we thought it would outlive all future days," would be gone, too.

14. From which poem have these lines been taken? "A sudden blow: the great wings beating still Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, He holds her helpless breast upon his breast."

From Quiz Poetry Of William Butler Yeats

Answer: Leda and The Swan

This poem is based on the Greek myth in which Leda was ravished by Zeus in the form of a swan. As a result of this coupling, the twins Helen and Pollux were born. This poem recalls the Trojan War that rose from Helen's beauty, and the murder of Agamemnon by his wife.

15. One of Yeats' later poems, 'Gather Around Me, Parnellites' dealt with the memory of Charles Stuart Parnell. Who was Parnell?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: A 19th century political revolutionary

Parnell's work led to land and political reforms. After a nasty divorce case where he was named as the lover of Kitty O'Shea, he was forced to resign. He died in O'Shea's arms only a few months after marrying her.

16. Which bird completes the titles of 'Leda and the _____' and 'The Wild _____ at Coole'?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: Swan & Swans

Coole was the estate of Lady Gregory, a friend of Yeats.

17. Which Irish folk hero and Red Branch leader's 'Fight With the Sea' was the subject of an early Yeats' poem?

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: Cuchulain

Needless to say, Cuchulain did not win, though he did fight to a draw.

18. From which poem does the novel 'Things Fall Apart', by Chinua Achebe, get its title?

From Quiz William Butler Yeats

Answer: The Second Coming

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity." So reads the first verse of this 1920 poem in which Yeats uses Christian apocalyptic imagery to describe the state of Europe immediately following World War I, and the conditions in Ireland as the Irish War of Independence was underway. Then there was the 1918-1919 flu pandemic: his pregnant wife was recovering from a severe case that nearly killed her when he wrote the poem. Things were not good, and this poem has continued to strike a chord through the years. It has been widely referenced in poems, novels, essays, films, etc. - sometimes as a direct quote, sometimes as a reference that relies on familiarity with the original to see significance in a twist. An example of the latter is the title of Jonathan Alter's analysis of the 2012 US Presidential election, 'The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies'.

19. Complete the opening line of 'Sailing to Byzantium': 'That is no country for ____ ____'

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: old men

One of Yeats' later poems, one can see Yeats already trying to set down his place in history in this poem.

20. This 1939 three stanza poem was one of Yeats' last and uses, respectively, Julius Caesar, Helen of Troy and Michaelangeo as metaphors for the survival, progress and works of civilization. Name the poem.

From Quiz W.B. Yeats and His Times

Answer: The Long-Legged Fly

It is difficult to believe, in the few years before 1939, that Yeats did not have his poetic eye on events across the English Channel on the continent. Caesar needed the "silence" of the "long-legged fly upon the stream" as he pored over his maps "so that civilization may not sink." A young Helen of Troy needed the "silence" of the "long-legged fly upon the stream" as she practiced the alluring arts of becoming a woman so that the "topless towers" of Troy may be burnt, giving birth to Homer and Western Civilization. And, finally, Michelangelo needed the "silence" of the "long-legged fly upon the stream" so that children ("girls of puberty") may witness the art of the Sistine Chapel. Much must have seemed in jeopardy in those years.

21. From which poem have I taken these lines? "Come near, come near, come near - Ah, leave me still A little space for the rose-breath to fill! Lest I no more hear common things that crave;"

From Quiz Poetry Of William Butler Yeats

Answer: To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time

"To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time" was written in 1892. The title suggests the combination of the Rose and the Cross in Rosicrucianism. The Rosicrucian Order is a legendary esoteric order with its roots in the western mystery tradition. It is an hermitic order viewed as a "College of Invisibles".

22. In a poem by Yeats, he catches a fish which turns into a beautiful woman who promptly runs away from him.

From Quiz The poetry of W.B. Yeats

Answer: Aengus

The poem is 'The Song of Wandering Aengus'. Aengus has spent the rest of his life searching for this woman, never to find her again.

23. The last stanza of which poem written by Yeats is inscribed on his tombstone?

From Quiz William Butler Yeats

Answer: Under Ben Bulben

This is one of the last poems written by Yeats, and was not published until after his death six months after he wrote the first draft. Yeats is buried in the churchyard of St Columba's Church in Drumcliff, near the foot of the large rock formation known as Ben Bulben. Ben Bulben has featured in Irish legends, and was the site of a battle of the Irish Civil War. Yeats had told his family that he wished to be initially buried where he died (in France), to avoid publicity, but then to have a final resting place in Sligo. This was done in 1948; the epitaph on his tombstone reads: "Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman pass by!" This is yet another piece of Yeats' work which has found a home with other writers. Larry McMurtry's first novel, 'Horseman, Pass By', was adapted into the 1963 movie 'Hud', starring Paul Newman. The horseman is Hud's stepfather Homer, whose funeral is at the end of the book.

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