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In Tribute to W.B.Yeats
by Hartson & Helen O'Doud

He was born on June 13th, 1865 and he died on January 28th, 1939.
On the Dublin road, a few miles out of Sligotown, in Drumcliff and its famous churchyard is where William Butler Yeats is buried. St. Colmcille founded a monastery here in A.D. 574 and there is a fine high cross to mark the spot.

Although William Butler Yeats was not born in Sligo, he started going there as a boy with his parents who were both Sligonians. He wrote a number of poems about Sligo, including the very popular Lake Isle of Innisfree.

The central theme in Yeats' poems is Ireland, its history, folklore and contemporary public life. In 1917, he married Georgie Hyde-Lee; they had a son and a daughter. Yeats received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

He died in France and his body was taken home to Ireland at his own request, to be re-interred in Drumcliff where his grandfather had once been rector. The inscription on his gravestone reads:

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!
W.B.YEATS
June 13th 1865
January 28th 1939

Today, there is a Yeats school in Drumcliff every summer and scholars come from all over the world to participate.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made.
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wing.

I will arise and go now. For always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

1892


Origin of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
by W. B. Yeats, from his Autobiography

I had [in London] various women friends on whom I would call towards five o'clock mainly to discuss my thoughts that I could not bring to a man without meeting some competing thought, but partly because their tea and toast saved my pennies for the bus ride home; but with women, apart from their intimate exchanges of thought, I was timid and abashed. I was sitting on a seat in front of the British Museum feeding pigeons when a couple of girls sat near and began enticing my pigeons away, laughing and whispering to one another, and I looked straight in front of me, very indignant, and presently went into the Museum without turning my head towards them. Since then I have often wondered if they were pretty or merely very young. Sometimes I told myself very adventurous love-stories with myself for hero, and at other times I planned out a life of lonely austerity, and at other times mixed the ideals and planned a life of lonely austerity mitigated by periodical lapses. I had still the ambition, formed in Sligo in my teens, of living in imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree, a little island in Lough Gill (photo 62k), and when walking through Fleet Street very homesick I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-window which balanced a little ball upon its jet, and began to remember lake water. From the sudden remembrance came my poem "Innisfree," my first lyric with anything in its rhythm of my own music. I had begun to loosen rhythm as an escape from rhetoric and from that emotion of the crowd that rhetoric brings, but I only understood vaguely and occasionally that I must for my special purpose use nothing but the common syntax. A couple of years later I could not have written that first line with its conventional archaism -- "Arise and go" -- nor the inversion of the last stanza.

For more about Yeats and a selection of his poetry please click W.B. Yeats Poetry pages.

 

Thu, Dec 7, 2017

Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*

Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.



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