On the great Yeats trail in Gal­way

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Britain & Europe - OLIVIA COLE

THE Go Gal­way bus from Dublin sounds an un­likely plea­sure, but it is both com­fort­able and punc­tual. There is free Wi-Fi if you want it, but it would be crim­i­nal to do any­thing other than gawp at the view. Two and a half hours pass quickly when trav­el­ling at sun­set, pass­ing be­tween rain clouds with rain­bows fall­ing out of the sky.

While my trip was, as they say, for the craic (a good friend’s 40th), I couldn’t come to Gal­way with­out mak­ing time for a WB Yeats pil­grim­age.

His pa­tron Lady Au­gusta Gre­gory had her home near Gort, in the south of the county. Gal­way is sat­u­rated in his po­etry; or per­haps I mean his po­etry is sat­u­rated in Gal­way. But in the county to­day, there is both chaotic rev­er­ence and wil­ful dis­re­gard.

Lady Gre­gory gives her name to the ho­tel and con­fer­ence cen­tre where I stayed, but her house, Coole Park — a refuge for Yeats for more than 20 years — was de­mol­ished in 1941. In what was her walled gar­den chil­dren whiz around on scoot­ers, and dogs run off the leash around the so-called Au­to­graph Tree where Bernard Shaw, Au­gus­tus John and friends carved their ini­tials.

Roy Foster’s bi­og­ra­phy pro­vides some pi­quant de­tails about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween pa­tron and prized pet.

Lady Gre­gory would not let Yeats so­cialise with other house guests un­til he’d writ­ten six lines of po­etry that day. Her son and heir, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, was not amused to have this hand­some poet hang­ing around: he once sug­gested that Yeats might per­haps like to pro­vide his own de­canter and wine for his sum­mer hol­i­days.

Though at six lines a day it must have taken a while to come, the land­scape and his host­ess now have a fame that has out­lived the house; most no­tably in The Wild Swans at Coole. (The swans, at least, are still there.) In the poem, the older Yeats — per­haps in def­er­ence to his host­ess —

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.