On this day in 1865 Irish poet William Butler Yeats was born.
In 1923 he received the Nobel Prize for literature. Much of his best work came in his last years, including this epitaph written before his death, aged seventy-five: ‘Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by’.
Yeats grew up as part of the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland and was disturbed by the many political changes going on. The family moved to England where he spent most of his life. His poetry is notable for its atmospheric feel, its passion and joy and its use of rhythm and sound, perhaps surprising in a man who was tone deaf.
Here are some lines from The Wanderings of Oisin:
We rode in sorrow, with strong hounds three,
Bran, Sceolan, and Lomair,
On a morning misty and mild and fair.
The mist-drops hung on the fragrant trees,
And in the blossoms hung the bees.
We rode in sadness above Lough Lean,
For our best were dead on Gavra’s green.
..O you, with whom in sloping valleys,
Or down the dewy forest alleys,
I chased at morn the flying deer,
With whom I hurled the hurrying spear,
And heard the foemen’s bucklers rattle,
And broke the heaving ranks of battle!
And Bran, Sceolan, and Lomair,
Where are you with your long rough hair?
You go not where the red deer feeds,
Nor tear the foemen from their steeds.
Today I will be grateful that I am exploring my own spirituality and the inspiration that I gain from it.