Sunday 17 December 2017

Sunday Poem: At Galway Races, by William Butler Yeats

At Galway Races

Anthony Cronin
Anthony Cronin

W.B. Yeats

At Galway Races was written in Coole Park, Lady Gregory's house, in 1908 after the poet had spent a day at the Galway Race Meeting. That is over a century ago but the wish it expresses is the same as that expressed by the new Minister for the Arts, Heather Humphries, in a radio interview the other day. It is a wish that is shared by virtually all artists, literary and otherwise, however 'elitist' they're supposed to be: "Art for everybody." And it is one that Yeats expressed often in prose and poetry. He wanted an inclusive society, one in which everybody would have more or less the same values. As we know, he wanted that society to be aristocratic in the very dubious hope that an aristocracy would foster art to everybody's benefit.

At Galway Races

There where the course is,

Delight makes all of the one mind,

The riders upon the galloping horses,

The crowd that closes in behind:

We, too, had good attendance once,

Hearers and hearteners of the work;

Aye, horsemen for companions,

Before the merchant and the clerk

Breathed on the world with timid breath.

Sing on: somewhere at some new moon,

We'll learn that sleeping is not death,

Hearing the whole earth change its tune,

Its flesh being wild, and it again

Crying aloud as the racecourse is,

And we find hearteners among men

That ride upon horses.

Sunday Independent

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