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Drumcliffe
County Sligo


DRUMCLIFFE, a parish, in the Lower half-barony of CARBKRY, county of SLIGO, and province of CONNAUGHT, 3 miles from Sligo This place anciently called Cnoc na teagh, was once a large town, A monastery was founded here, in 590, by St. Columba, who appointed his disciple, St. Thorian, or Mothorian, abbot, and to his office episcopal jurisdiction was united : the see was subsequently united to Elphin. St. Torannan, a succeeding abbot, who died in 921, was afterwards regarded as the patron saint of the place. A religious house was also founded at Cailleavinde by St. Fintan, a disciple of St. Columb.


William Butler Yeats was born in Sandymount, County Dublin.  His father, John Butler Yeats, was a descendant of Jervis Yeats, a Williamite soldier and linen merchant who died in 1712. Jervis' grandson Benjamin married Mary Butler, daughter of a landed County Kildare family. At the time of his marriage, John Yeats was studying law, but abandoned his studies to study art at  Heatherley’s Art School in London. His mother, Susan Mary Pollexfen, came from a wealthy Anglo-Irish family in County Sligo who owned a prosperous milling and shipping business. Soon after William's birth the family relocated to Sligo to stay with her extended family, and the young poet came to think of the area as his childhood and spiritual home. Its landscape became, over time, both literally and symbolically, his "country of the heart". The Butler Yeats family were highly artistic; his brother Jack went on to be a highly regarded painter, while his sisters Elizabeth and Susan—known to family and friends as Lollie and Lily—became involved in the arts and crafts movement.

Georgie:

In September, Yeats proposed to twenty-four-year-old George (Georgie) Hyde-Lees (1892–1968), whom he had met through occult circles. Despite warning from her  friends—"George ... you can't. He must be dead"—Hyde-Lees accepted, and the two were married on 20 October.[34] Their marriage was a success, in spite of the age difference, and in spite of Yeats' feelings of remorse and regret during their honeymoon. Around this time George wrote to her husband "When you are dead, people will talk about your love affairs, but I shall say nothing, for I will remember how proud you were". The couple went on to have two children, Anne and Michael.

Having suffered from a variety of illnesses for a number of years, he died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France on 28 January, 1939. He was buried after a discreet and private funeral at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Yeats and George had often discussed his death, and his express wish was to be buried quickly in France with a minimum of fuss. According to George "His actual words were 'If I die bury me up there [at Roquebrune] and then in a year's time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo".  In September 1948, Yeats's body was moved to Drumcliffe, County Sligo, on the Irish Naval Service corvette L.E. Macha.  His epitaph is taken from the last lines of "Under Ben Bulben", one of his final poems:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by










Under Ben Bulben is a poem written by celebrated Irish poet W. B. Yeats.
It was one of the last poems he wrote in his lifetime, and the last three lines decorate his gravestone in Drumcliffe, County Sligo, Ireland.


I
Swear by what the sages spoke
Round the Mareotic Lake
That the Witch of Atlas knew,
Spoke and set the cocks a-crow.

Swear by those horsemen, by those women
Complexion and form prove superhuman,
That pale, long-visaged company
That air in immortality
Completeness of their passions won;
Now they ride the wintry dawn
Where Ben Bulben sets the scene.

Here's the gist of what they mean.

II
Many times man lives and dies
Between his two eternities,
That of race and that of soul,
And ancient Ireland knew it all.
Whether man die in his bed
Or the rifle knocks him dead,
A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst man has to fear.
Though grave-digger's toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong,
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again.

III
You that Mitchel's prayer have heard,
"Send war in our time, O Lord!"
Know that when all words are said
And a man is fighting mad,
Something drops from eyes long blind,
He completes his partial mind,
For an instant stands at ease,
Laughs aloud, his heart at peace.
Even the wisest man grows tense
With some sort of violence
Before he can accomplish fate,
Know his work or choose his mate.

IV
Poet and sculptor, do the work,
Nor let the modish painter shirk
What his great forefathers did,
Bring the soul of man to God,
Make him fill the cradles right.

Measurement began our might:
Forms a stark Egyptian thought,
Forms that gentler Phidias wrought,
Michael Angelo left a proof
On the Sistine Chapel roof,
Where but half-awakened Adam
Can disturb globe-trotting Madam
Till her bowels are in heat,
Proof that there's a purpose set
Before the secret working mind:
Profane perfection of mankind.

Quattrocento put in print
On backgrounds for a God or Saint
Gardens where a soul's at ease;
Where everything that meets the eye,
Flowers and grass and cloudless sky,
Resemble forms that are or seem
When sleepers wake and yet still dream,
And when it's vanished still declare,
With only bed and bedstead there,
That heavens had opened.

Gyres run on;
When that greater dream had gone
Calvert and Wilson, Blake and Claude,
Prepared a rest for the people of God,
Palmer's phrase, but after that
Confusion fell upon our thought.

V
Irish poets, learn your trade,
Sing whatever is well made,
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top,
Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base-born products of base beds.
Sing the peasantry, and then
Hard-riding country gentlemen,
The holiness of monks, and after
Porter-drinkers' randy laughter;
Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.

VI
Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliff 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
By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!


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