Monday 18 December 2017

WB Yeats, Nobel man and legend

WB Yeats, photographed in the 1920s.
WB Yeats, photographed in the 1920s.

'Because he wrote in the English tongue, the English claim him as their own. One might challenge it if the Irish in common with the rest of the world didn't claim Shakespeare. The universal touch of the great poet transcends nationalism."

That's how the Irish Independent paid tribute to WB Yeats a day after he died in January 1939, and it's a statement that holds true today.

In this final part of WB@150, we look back at how news of Yeats's death was met and how, nine years later in 1948, the nation bade a quite extraordinary farewell when he was buried at Drumcliffe in Co Sligo with his famous 'Cast a Cold Eye' epitaph.

The legacy of Yeats's work grows greater by the year and, in these pages, distinguished academics assess his poems and plays - setting them in their rightful place.

These insights by Professor Gerald Dawe of Trinity, Dr Lucy Collins and PJ Mathews of UCD's School of English and Adrian Paterson of NUI Galway will be useful for students of all levels seeking a better understanding of Yeats's many masterpieces.

WB@150 also delves deeper into Yeats's character and notable achievements; we lift the lid on his interest in the occult and we tell the story of the Nobel Prize award for literature in 1923 when he cooked sausages to celebrate the news.

In this commemorative year that even has an official title - Yeats2015 - we list, on page 16, some of the nationwide events for the remainder of 2015 including Yeats Day in June and we talk to the Yeats Society about the work they do to educate people about their beloved subject.

There's also a look at Yeats's enormous influence on popular culture including music and screen, while travel editor Pól Ó Conghaile explores the many beautiful places in Sligo and Galway so deeply treasured by the poet.


Ciarán Byrne


Irish Independent

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