The Grave of William Butler Yeats

I got lost on my way to W. B. Yeats‘ grave which I think was appropriate. Getting to Sligo was easy enough from Dublin and also quite pleasant since it involved a three hour train ride across Ireland. I saw lots of sheep and lots of bogs, which we now call wetlands.

It was the walk from the train station to the Yeats Society Sligo building where I got twisted and my phone’s GPS was useless because I’d forgotten to download the map and didn’t want to pay for roaming data. So I had to navigate the old fashioned way by a cartoon tourist map and street signs.

The Yeats museum had some fascinating exhibits but very few artifacts. While the great Irish poet wanted to be buried in Sligo, he really didn’t spend much time there as an adult. His grave is, unfortunately, well outside town so I had to hire a taxi. I got lucky that my driver was a local and knew all the Yeats gossip.

He even clued me in that the bones buried in St. Columba’s might not actually be his. Yeats died in France in 1939 and was buried there with the instructions that his body was to be exhumed and then “planted” in Sligo after a year. It took nine years, I assume because of World War II, and in the interim his body had been exhumed and moved to an ossuary where his bones were mixed with others. I assumed it was just an Irish urban legend but once I got back to my computer I discovered there is something to it.

Statue of Yeats in Sligo

None the less, I attended the grave under the assumption that the bones there were once his.

If you’re unfamiliar with his poetry, here are three that I think hold up very well despite being a century old.

The Second Coming is one of my favorite poems of all time. It feels like it could’ve been written at any point in the past few years as the world unwinds.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a lovely little work. My cabbie, after taking me to the grave then took me to Lough Gill and pointed out which of the islands inspired Yeats.

An Irish Airman foresees his Death, is a very ambivalent war poem set in World War I when the Irish were both rebelling against the English as well as fighting for them in the trenches.

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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11 Responses to The Grave of William Butler Yeats

  1. JeanMarie says:

    “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – Love these lines.

    I feel like I’m on vacation with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. K.Hartless says:

    Thank you for this share. I loved the Yeats selections, especially the last. He turned a phrase with such grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. berniebell1955 says:

    Yay! You’re in the land of my ancestors – and there’s still a lot of us there.

    Re. his grave in Drumcliffe churchyard…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/11/15/one-memory-leads-to-another/

    (By the by – if a person is sitting on the toilet in my Nephew’s house, they can see straight across to Knocknarea. It’s said that if you can’t see the mountain, it’s raining, if you can see the mountain, it’s going to rain. That’s the Irish weather for you.)

    I’d say it doesn’t matter if they’re his bones or not – it’s the thought that counts.

    Here’s one of my favourites by the awl fela himself…..

    https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/02/18/the-stolen-child/

    This includes a picture of Glencar waterfall. My sister lived near here and we’ve visited it many times over the years. In 2004 we found that this sign had been erected. It’s because the Council are worried that ‘someone’ (the ubiquitous ‘someone’) might go too near the edge, fall in, sue etc, etc. Glencar is a beautiful place, W.B.Yeats wrote ‘The Stolen Child’ about it, so, what do they do? Block the view of the falls with this sign…..

    The irony is that now, if someone wants to take a picture of the falls (which people always do), they have to lean over, off the path, to do so – which IS dangerous! Instead of people being taught to have common sense, and expected to use common sense, they have to be nannied all the time. I asked my Uncle Anthony who lived in the area all his life if there ever has been an accident at Glencar. No, nothing has ever happened there, his opinion being that anyone with any sense doesn’t lean over, and if they do, they get what they deserve and might have more sense next time!

    And there’s Lissadell House – home to the Gore-Booth family who were great friends of Yeats. And Lough Gill which holds the ’Lake Isle of Inishfree’ – did your taxi driver tell you about Beezie – who lived on Cottage Island – known locally as Beezie’s Island?

    You’ve really stirred up memories. I’ll stop now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He didn’t mention her name but he did tell me about Cottage Island and the lady who lived there as long as she could row.

      Like

      • berniebell1955 says:

        Did you know…that Coney Island, New York is said to have been named after Coney Island near Rosses Point?

        “Far off by furthest Rosses
        We foot it all the night,
        Weaving olden dances
        Mingling hands and mingling glances”

        I’ll stop now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I did not know that. I just assumed it got that name because of the rabbits.

        Like

  4. berniebell1955 says:

    Thinking of Dublin – I just put this as a ‘comment’ to an article in ‘The Orkney News’ about profanity ….

    “After-thought…remember the band ‘The Pogues’ – short for Pogue Mahone – being the anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic póg mo thóin, meaning “kiss my arse”.
    I have a small brass pig called póg mo thóin – a souvenir of a visit to Ireland.

    And there a song called ‘Monto’ – which is v. rude disrespectful…

    ‘The Queen she came to call on us,
    She wanted to see all of us,
    I’m glad she didn’t fall on us,
    She’s eighteen stone,
    Mr. me Lord Mayor, sez she,
    Is this all you’ve got to show to me?
    Why no, ma’am, there is more to see,
    Pg mo thin,
    And he took her up to Monto, Monto, Monto,
    He took her up to Monto, langeroo,
    Goodnight to you’

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Statues of Dublin | Bartholomew Barker, Poet

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