Best Literature Smackdown: Maud Gonne’s Response to William Butler Yeats

by Regina Kenney


I want to share my favourite literature smackdowns of all time.

William Butler Yeats was hopelessly in love with a phenomenal woman named Maud Gonne. He pursued her relentlessly and asked to marry her many times.

Many of Yeats’ poems were inspired by Gonne including, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”, “When You Are Old”, “He Wishes His Beloved Were Dead” (Maud apparently laughed out loud when reading this one), and “Mongan Thinks of his Past Greatness”.

Yeats obsession transcended generation, as he even proposed marriage to Gonne’s daughter, Iseult, years later when she was 23 and he was 52.

Once, when Yeats told Maud that he “wasn’t happy without her,” Gonne responded:

“Oh yes, you are, because you make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you.”

Drop mic.



*Highly recommend Maud Gonne’s autobiography, ‘A Servant of the Queen.’ Delves into Irish politics and literary movements of the time. 


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