Sunday 11 December 2016

Skewering the stupid and the vain but also looking with a cold eye on himself

Too often, anniversary celebrations are a platform for cranks, ideologues and bores but we should celebrate the independent-minded inspiration that is Yeats

Fergal Keane

Published 17/05/2015 | 02:30

Largeness of spirit: With W B Yeats we cannot celebrate enough - the lines he wrote of Ireland in times of conflict , of love for women and for art are a constant inspiration
Largeness of spirit: With W B Yeats we cannot celebrate enough - the lines he wrote of Ireland in times of conflict , of love for women and for art are a constant inspiration

I take a train to Liverpool to celebrate Yeats. The fine people at the Institute for Irish Studies in the city have organised an evening of poetry and talk in his honour. Being neither a Yeats scholar nor a poet, I am naturally highly qualified to offer my opinions. However, I am a 54-year-old smiling public man. And I have a deep love for the work of our greatest poet.

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As a boy, Yeats passed frequently through Liverpool on his way to London. In his autobiography he remembered:

"When I was a little boy, an old woman who had come to Liverpool with crates of fowl made me miserable by throwing her arms around me the moment I alighted from the cab and telling the sailor who carried my luggage that she held me in her arms when I was a baby."

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