Tag Archives: Drumcliffe

Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – Sligo poetry, scenery,history

imageMy wanders northwards along the Wild Atlantic Way continued into County Sligo. There is something about Sligo that I cannot quite describe. Ben Bulbin in the Dartry Mountain range with its distinctive plateau, has for decades intrigued me as it changes mood and profile almost with every mile. Over the years when making my way from my home in Limerick to my former home in Donegal, there was always a compulsory stop in Drumcliffe, Sligo to visit the resting place of one of our greatest poets, W.B.Yeats. On this trip however, I am not just passing through, I am here to explore places that have long since beckoned and beguiled me.

And so I took a right hand turn and followed the signs for Glencar, a place I know only from the Yeats poem, ‘A Stolen Child’.

Glencar straddles the border between Counties Sligo and Leitrim, and the lake did not disappoint! I half expected dozens of swan, but saw only two! The waterfall that falls from the side of Ben Bulbin into the lake below was a delight. I felt that I had ‘arrived’ – and why wouldn’t I, given that it inspired one of Ireland’s most famous poems – The Stolen Child.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. 

Onwards then to Drumcliffe, where there is a fine bronze and limestone depiction of one of my favourite Yeats poems: ‘He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’. This is a personal favourite, although the monument is difficult to photograph!

drumcliffe cloths of heaven

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Under Ben Bulbin

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

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!

And here is that very ancient cross

image

Drumcliffe High Cross possibly dating from 11th Century, in the grounds of a former abbey.

Nearby is the early 19th Century Lissadell House, sitting on the shores of Sligo Bay. Yeats was a regular visitor here, then the home of  Gore-Booth, the 5th Baronet of Sligo. One of his daughters, Constance Gore-Booth, who with her sister etched her initials into the glass of a living-room window with a diamond ring, became the first female elected representative to Parliament at Westminster and later to Dail Eireann. Constance, who later became Countess Markievicz, poet, painter, suffragette, nationalist and patriot is commemorated here.

Her role in the rebellion of 1916 is proudly symbolized by the flying of the Irish tricolour alongside the house ..a fact that would have riled her family who did not use the ‘C’ word! (‘C’ being for Constance)

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The Irish Tricolour flying at Lissadell House.

And so to Mullaghmore, that sparkles there on the vast expanse of Donegal Bay. On the evening of my visit there was country and western singing and dancing on the pier between the showers!  In the hinterland behind Mullaghmore is Classiebawn Castle, summer home for many years of Louis Mountbatten, inherited by his wife Edwina.

Classiebawn

Classiebawn Castle

Mountbatten was related to Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip. The extended family were regular visitors to the area and were very well liked. On a Monday morning in August 1979, thugs of the Irish Republican Army put a bomb on a small fishing boat that carried Mountbatten, his daughter, grandchildren, extended family and a local boy on a family fishing outing. Two young boys aged 14 and 15 were killed, as was Mountbatten, then aged 79 and a female relative in her 80s. Two elderly people and two children were dead, with others suffering horrible injuries.

I loved this famine memorial at Mullaghmore because of the location with Classiebawn in the background.

Another sunset to end another wonderful day along the Wild Atlantic Way!

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Heritage Week: W.B Yeats, Poet, in Drumcliffe

William Butler Yeats  (1865-1939) was one of Ireland’s best known and best-loved poets. One of the great advantages to living here in the mid-west of Ireland is that on  the 255 mile, 6 hour-long  trips back home to Donegal, the county of my childhood, I have to pass through Drumcliffe, in County Sligo. Drumcliffe is the burial  place of W.B .Yeats, and a mandatory coffee stop here down the years has now become a family tradition and marks our ‘arrival’ in the north-west.

Drumcliffechurch

Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865 but spent much of his childhood in Sligo. He loved the old celtic stories of Ireland and even though born into a Protestant family of Anglo Irish origin he became something of nationalist,advocating the use of the Irish language. In 1899 he co-founded the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. His love for Maud Gonne, an English-born Irish revolutionary, is legendary, having proposed to her and been refused 5 times in all.  In 1917, he married an English girl, half his age. Her name was Georgie Hyde-Lees, whom he called George.  They had a good marriage in spite of  the age difference. In 1922 he became a Senator serving two terms and in 1923 he became the first Irish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He died in 1939  in Roquebrune-Cap-MartinFrance . In 1948, his remains were brought home to Ireland by the Irish Naval Service and re-interred in Drumcliffe.

Yeats was a prolific writer, and has left us short stories,essays, collections of folk tales and myths as well as poetry. In the carpark  at Drumcliffe there is a wonderful interpretation of the Yeats poem, and one of my favourites, ‘He wishes for the Cloths of  Heaven’

ClothsofHeaven2

ClothsofHeaven1Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Yeats grave is very simple and is located near the door of the church, where his grandfather was once rector

Yeatsgrave Yeats had clearly expressed his wish to be buried here and dictated  the inscription on his headstone in the last stanza of his poem ‘Under Bare Ben Bulben’s Head’:

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
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!

Ben Bulben is a magnificent mountain that dominates the landscape in this area for miles around. The beautiful St Columba’s Church in Drumcliffe lies beneath it, as can be seen in this photo taken from  his grave with Ben Bulbin in the background.BenBulbin

Among my personal favourites are those poems inspired by the great beauty of the countryside such as The Wild Swans at Coole ( which is in Co. Galway)

The  trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty Swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Yeats love of swans is reflected in the beautiful door of the church

Drumcliffechurchdoor

Swans on the doors of the church –  I pulled them closed for a moment just to get a picture!  I know that somewhere I have more details on these doors, but cannot find it at the moment.

drumcliffedoordetailThe Wild Swans at Coole?

Drumcliffe is a lovely place – great coffee shop, a wonderful high cross and remains of an ancient round tower. If you drop by here, I can guarantee that it will instil at the very least a curiosity about our most wonderful poet.

WB_Yeats_nd

W.B Yeats.Poet, Essayist, Politician, Irishman . Image Wikimedia Commons.

W.B. Yeats  – a magnificent part of our Heritage!

References :

Wikipedia.org

http://www.online-literature.com/yeats/

Running to Paradise Poems by W.B Yeats   An Introductory selection  by Kevin Crossley-Holland

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