Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 4, "Ireland" seminar trip

[These are the daily posts located at Google Maps. Posting one-a-day in the aftermath.]

Yeats country. Though William Butler Yeats was born to a middle-class Anglo-Protestant family of clerics and artists in Dublin, his heart was in his ancestral home of Sligo, where his mother’s Pollexfen people came from. His patroness Augusta Lady Gregory maintained a home at Coole Park (site of “The Wild Swans at Coole“) in Galway, but Yeats himself chose to settle his family at Thoor Ballylee, a Norman-era tower he purchased and restored. Sligo was very important to Yeats, however: years after his death in France, he was re-interred at Drumcliffe Church, his grandfather’s seat. He lies in the Drumcliffe churchyard, near the church doors whose bronze handles have been rendered as Coole’s wild swans, with his wife Georgie beside him, in the shadow “Under Ben Bulben.” As the poem opens, Under bare Ben Bulben's head / In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.

[Later: very nice visit to Drumcliffe, where Ben Bulben was rather socked-in by cloud but the churchyard, carved stone cross, and 8th-century round tower (for safety from Viking raiders) were as we remembered—and again this year, our luck held: we had the churchyard to ourselves for our visit to the Master’s grave, and only as we were departing did the huge tour-busses of tourists arrive.]

Later, it’s off east of Sligo town into northwest Limerick, to visit various sites important in the Yeats canon (including Lough Gill, where lies the “Isle of Innisfree”), and also Parke Castle, a beautifully-preserved “Big House” built in the early 17th century at the east end of the Loch, chose name means “Bright Waters.” And they are—looking west on a clear day in the afternoon, one can watch as the sun sets over the loch, turning the gray, green choppy water a bright gold. The castle was built in 1607 as part of the “Plantation”, when English and Scottish Presbyterians were “planted” in Gaeltachta as a way of assuring Protestant Ascendancy. The castle is beautifully preserved (including a unique period “sauna”, and an escape tunnel that leads to the loch’s shores just outside the walls) with excellent exhibits and very knowledgeable tour guides. Typically, there is a lot of Monty-Pythonesque “was that a European or an African swallow?” humor at this point.

[Nice quiet day at Parke’s Castle, where the weather held for us and we got a nice tour and photos of the Castle and Lough.]

Listen to Yeats reciting The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

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