Day 4 2016 – A full day in Yeats’ Country
Day 4 was probably our most ambitious – and maybe our most rewarding – day of the whole trip. We did a lot, but we didn’t have to travel far, which made it all possible.
After our morning of writing and yoga in Sligo we started with lunch at Lissadell House. Can you see the pictures of Leonard Cohen on the wall behind us? We felt welcomed as writers and as Canadians.
Leo took us under his wing – a fascinating man with a unique personal perspective on those to the manor born and those who serve. His family has been in service to the ruling family here for generations.
As well as being one of Ireland’s finest houses, there are many historical associations with the house. It was the home of Constance Markievicz, associated with the poet W B Yeats and, because of its links to Markievicz and the 1916 Rising, it can be argued that the house is inextricably linked to the foundation of the state.
The house was the childhood home of Irish revolutionary, Constance Gore-Booth, her sister the poet and suffragist, Eva Gore-Booth, and their siblings. It was also the sometime holiday retreat of the world-renowned poet, William Butler Yeats. He made the house famous with the opening lines of his poem:
“In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz”
The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
The estate was bought by the Cassidy-Walsh family in 2003 for an undisclosed sum. They initiated a program of restoration of the house and grounds. In 2006 a 1.1 million euro state grant was made available by Fáilte Ireland towards the restoration of the gardens, which we walked through. They are spectacular!
Across the bay you can see Knocknarea and on top the small nipple that is Queen Maeve’s tomb. There’ll be more about that below!
After Lissadell we stopped in to pay our respects to Mr. Yeats himself in the churchyard at Drumcliffe. Ben Bulben guards the area, and the cows nearby graze in peace.
The Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W. B. Yeats
A simple stone with a haiku-like poem.
Our next adventure that afternoon was a cruise on Lough Gill – site of the island that was the inspiration for “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”. This little bump in the lake here, this tiny isle, is the actual island written about in the poem.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
The weather was wildly changeable out on the deck of the boat, but inside there was tea and biscuits and gorgeous views and warmth – both in the conversations and the atmosphere.
And as if that weren’t enough for one day, many of us decided that we were going to climb Knocknarea and visit the Queen!
The clear-cut limestone mountain of Knocknarea forms one of County Sligo’s most conspicuous landmarks. Knocknarea Mountain dominates the skyline of Sligo. Formed from limestone over 300 million years ago, the summit is crowned by the great cairn of Queen Maeve (Miosgan Meadhbha) and has been an important ritual focal point since Neolithic times.
To read more about Queen Maeve’s tomb, click here.
The landscape was quite challenging, but we made it!
We started in sun at the bottom but by the time we got to the top, the Irish weather was having it’s way with us. Still it didn’t dampen our spirits!
The group of triumphant summitteers all safely down from the climb!