William Butler Yeats

Drumcliff Travel Blog

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Ancient cross referred to in Yeats poem.
Although I am not a poet and don't pretend to know anything about poetry, I was still intrigued by the final resting place of the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats.  Drumcliff is a short drive north of Sligo, where Yeats spent holidays and summers with his grandparents.  We searched the Protestant churchyard high and low until we found his grave.  It was well marked with a marble tombstone and situated very close to the front steps of the church building.   Yeats perfectly described the village of Drumcliff in his poem ~~

Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliffe 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.
Words written by Yeats one year before his death.

By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death,
Horseman, pass by!

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in the seaside village of Sandymount, County Dublin, on June 13, 1865.  His mother was Susan Mary Pollexfen, the daughter of a wealthy family from County Sligo.  His father was John Butler Yeats, a well-known portrait artist who moved from Ireland to New York City in 1907 where he lived until his death in 1922.  As a young adult fresh out of school, Yeats lived in London but was very often homesick for his native Ireland and spent every summer in Sligo with his grandparents.  Yeats married at the age of forty-six and had two children, a daughter and a son.  He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 and continued to write his essays and poetry until his death in France in January, 1939.  Yeats was buried in France but in 1948 his body was re-interred  to Drumcliff, County Sligo according to his wishes.

Those words forever inscribed upon marble, "Cast a cold eye on life, on death, Horseman, pass by!"   What else could he have meant except to say, "I'm no one special.  Don't stop here to ponder over my life.  Keep on riding."  You make your own interpretation but to me, that is exactly what William Butler Yeats wanted to say.

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Ancient cross referred to in Yeats…
Ancient cross referred to in Yeat…
Words written by Yeats one year be…
Words written by Yeats one year b…
photo by: Nzelvis