Poems in the park

By Kathrin Kobus


To celebrate Yeats’s birthday on June 13th there will be a poetry recital on Sandymount Green. The focus this year is on Lady Gregory’s son Robert on the centenary of his passing. This is the poem William Butler Yeats composed in that Summer of 1918.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate,

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

My country is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,

Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

I balanced all, brought all to mind,

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.

It is the last of the three elegies Yeats wrote between March and June/July 1918 after Robert Gregory was killed in action in Italy during World War I. The other two are Shepherd and Goatherd and In Memory of Major Robert Gregory.

The fourth one sometimes added to this collection, Reprisals, is a later addition, and one that Lady Gregory was not too happy about in contrast to the first three, which she had practically demanded from Yeats. The poet in return delivered three styled, composed classical elegies and glossed over the rather poor relationship he had with Robert Gregory, as documented in letters and diaries.

The event on Wednesday 13th of June is not a literary panel discussion about the specifics of the Cowley eight-line stanza or the rather fractious relations between Yeats and Robert Gregory regarding the Gregory’s home at Coole. It is just to acknowledge and commemorate Yeats’s lyrics and bring some of his poems to life by reciting them aloud.

“That is how poetry works best, that is how Yeats created it, there are stories that he drove his sisters mad with when walking or marching through the house shouting the verses and the words out to get the rhythm right,” explained Anthony Jordan, the organiser for the event. He told NewsFour how the celebration of Yeats Day came about in the first place. “Years ago, I took some of our students out to Sandymount Green for poetry readings, recitals. Some passers-by listened. So it just became an annual event at the anniversary of Yeats’s birthday.”

The former but now retired principal of the Enable Ireland school in Sandymount has also written a number of biographies about W.B.Yeats, Maud Gonne, Major John MacBride, Sean MacBride and various other illustrious political figures, including Winston Churchill and W.T. Cosgrave.

This year, he has invited students from Scoil Mhuire, Lakelands girls’ primary school to participate. They will step up on the pedestal and perform two poems. Anyone interested can join in to discover her or his lyrical muse or be content to be in the audience on the Green. 

Yeats Day will be celebrated on 13th of June on Sandymount Green from 10.30 am onwards. Anthony Jordan can be contacted,Tel: 087/2076272.

Pictured: Charles Lysaght and other speakers on a previous Yeats Day.