Happy Birthday to the great W.B
William Butler Yeats by John Singer Sargent 1908
William Butler Yeats, Irish poet and writer, senator and winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature is 150 years old today. His birthday is being celebrated all over the world and there is a four day party going on in Sligo right now. He wasn’t born in Sligo but it was where he spent every holiday in his youth and it was the place that meant at the most to him. Edna O’ Brien is at the party and the Irish Times quotes her today as saying ‘for every writer, the first places are the defining places. They colour and inform every writer. It is there in all the literary giants.’
On Monday Baroness D’Souza will host a celebration in the House of Lords with the Irish ambassador. Actor Michael Gambon (Dublin-born by the way) will read The Song of Wandering Aengus. Back in Ireland there’s also a Yeats coin, a Yeats rose and a Yeats garden.
Here’s one of my favourite poems
WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Maude Gonne – the woman who inspired Yeats’ poem…he never stopped loving the pilgrim soul in her.
William Butler Years and Maude Gonne William Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Yeats Country photo credit: Day 2 – Ben Bulben via photopin (license)