I think of Yeats often these days. Perhaps, I conjure him in the dreamtime and we meet in hazy green fields beyond time and place. He is one of my muses and seeps into my work.
When we visited the ruins of Lady Augusta Gregory’s estate at Coole Park in Gort, Ireland, a few years ago, I wrote her a letter. A flame, for the Irish Literary Revival, she co-founded the Abbey Theatre with WB Yeats and Edward Martyn.
AE, John Millington Singe, George Bernard Shaw, and Yeats, many of the Irish giants of literature and theatre, came here to socialize and create in the lush lands by the turloughs. They carved their initials on a tree that still stands. Lough Cuil is now an explorable nature reserve of 400 hectares. Yeats wrote several poems here including “The Wild Swans at Coole.” His Norman tower house, Thoor Ballylee, is nearby.
A Letter to Herself
It is August at Coole.
Black cows break from ivy-braided trees, crisscross our path,
and peer from leafy bowers in the seven woods,
While in the stonewalled pasture, a big-racked buck grazes lazily
among his harem.
Wild cows and docile deer. Nature topsy-turvy —
There are no wild swans — not nine and fifty — not two, not even one.
But it is only August at Coole.
Horseflies harangue us, freed from swaying heads of purple loosestrife
Where is this still brimming water?
The tide is out.
Sunlight shimmers waves and ripples through my lens and
distant trees appear as shaggy skulking arrows;
We are alone here on the strand.
Tara writing poetry on her Burren rock, and I, courting the ghost of Yeats
It is August at Coole.
Augusta Gregory has passed away, Bohemian crown askew,
Royal Lady, heiress to the unimagined, patroness of poets,
Poet herself and playwright, dearest friend and grand mum,
Molding all in ink-stained hands. But no Victoria.
Desperate Creatrix. The centre did not hold.
Your home demolished in the widening gyre,
Anarchy for the Republic —
All that remains are Yeats’ immortal words on plastic posts.
His vision revealed. All’s changed.
Arrows point tourists here and there through your memories
Your autograph tree now numbered and analyzed, imprisoned behind
Iron bars, tagged and martyred like Patrick Pearse —
Do you mind, Great Lady?
People still come, to know, to feel, to walk in the footsteps of
Poets and playwrights: Yeats and Synge, Æ, Shaw, and Auden.
Children play football and hang like fools, dogs chase sticks,
Dirty your walkways, and life spirals on.
Lough Cuil is Irish now.
Comforted by stone and sea, sun, rain, and western winds
Stories resurrected in the Gaeltacht. This you must love.
And your small patch of Ireland breathing still, a sanctuary of green —
No withered boughs.
I miss him too, but feel him somehow in the worded wind, and
My throat aches …
This is August at Coole.