Under Ben Bulben, a homage to William Butler Yeats

August 07, 2017  •  1 Comment

Ben Bulben, or Benbulbin, are the anglicisations of the Irish name "Binn Ghulbain". It is a large and impressive rock formation in County Sligo, Ireland. Located on the west coast, it is part of the Darty Mountains having a maximum height of 526 m (1,726 ft). Benbulbin is the setting of several Irish legends. It is said to be one of the hunting grounds of the Fianna, a band of warriors who are said to have lived in the 3rd century. It was from these tales that Yeats drew his inspiration for his poem about this distinctive and enchanting landmark

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!

          - the final stanza of W.B. Yeat's prophetic poem: "Under Ben Bulben"

While on the drive down the west coast of Ireland on the N15 approaching Sligo city, we stopped to admire the sculpted beauty of Ben Bulben Mountain with its contours beautifully accented by the late afternoon light. Further down the road, while passing through the small village of Drumcliff, I recall, I had a quick impression of a roadside sign indicating the burial site of W.B. Yeats at the next left turn. On an impulse, we pulled into the small and deserted parking lot beside an old walled graveyard and chapel. It was late in the afternoon, and a golden light was illuminating the foliage and gravestones around us. A flock of chattering birds in the trees was the only other visitors to the place besides us. We made our way into the churchyard and found Yeats' grave stone, with his haunting epitaph, in a quiet corner near the chapel. I recall having a distinct feeling of another presence in that deserted place, but graveyards always seem to do that to me anyway.

After my return to the States from Ireland, a good friend invited me to join a small group of “Eirenophiles” on Sunday evenings to watch a series of DVD’s produced by the Great Courses entitled: Irish Identity and Culture. The presenter is Dr. John Connor, a professor of English and Irish Studies at Washington and Lee University. The course is a collection of half-hour lectures on significant historical events, as well as on the political and literary personalities of that time. All the lectures are engaging and very informative. Collectively they have re-connected me to aspects of my heritage that I knew very little about. One of the connections was to one of the greatest literary figures of Ireland, if not the Western world, William Butler Yeats. I had never read his "Under Ben Bulben" poem and I did not know a great deal about him when I initially made these photos. It was after learning about him in the course and reading his poetry that I came upon the idea of the connection between these images and the author of the poem. It's a bit accidental and perhaps even mystical and transcendental, but a coincidence that I'm sure even old W.B. would appreciate.


"An ancestor was rector there 
Long years ago; a church stands near,"


"By the road an ancient Cross."

"By his command these words are cut: ...."

You can read the entire poem here: 

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43298/under-ben-bulben


Comments

bestessays(non-registered)
There are a limitless number of alternatives here! By and by, I like to photo pay telephones and bikes, just as nature shots highlighting a solitary tree, and I've been developing a serious assortment of these topics in the course of recent years. Presently, at whatever point I'm out with my Nikon.
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