“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree…”
W B Yeats is one of Ireland’s favourite sons and deservedly so, as he wrote some memorable poetry. I remember the Lake Isle of Innisfree from schooldays and another quote, but I wouldn’t admit this to the Irish, from the Bremworth Carpet NZ TV ad that people of a certain age will remember: Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams. Yeats as a carpet salesman???
Yeats had a strong connection to Sligo and although he died in France he wished to be buried here within sight of Ben Bulben (“Plant me in Sligo” he said to his wife Georgie when he was dying in France) and so we were able to visit his grave at St Columba’s church in Drumcliff with Ben Bulben shining in the late afternoon sun.
We came to Drumcliff by way of a circumnavigation of Lough Gill, a pretty lake, with stops at the Tobernalt Holy Well, Dooney’s Rock and a point close to Innisfree. The Holy Well is one of dozens in Ireland but this one is a little different in that its history pre-dates Christian times, being a site for Celtic healing pilgrimage. Its deeply rural location was useful for secret Masses held at a time in the early 18th century when the English prohibited public displays of Catholicism.
It is places like this, and we have seen a number of them now, which communicate a tangible spirituality that makes it easy to believe that faeries and leprechauns are just out of sight and not far away. There is just something about parts of the Irish countryside, shamrocks in profusion, which turns fantasy into certain fact. As well, it could easily be Middle Earth, a thousand times more so than Matamata! (And we’ll have no unkind comments about Hobbits in this next photo, thank you very much.)
A hypnotic country.