Today is Yeats Day (#Yeats2015) when Ireland celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, William Butler Yeats. Growing up and going to school in Ireland, I didn't know too much about him and certainly didn't have any inkling of his literary influence or global reach, from Van Morisson to Project Gutenberg.
Ambassador Mulhally (@DanMulhall) from the Embassy of Ireland in London has been sharing a snippet of Yeats' poetry on his Twitter feed everyday for the last few months, so it seems fitting to take his lead by delving a little deeper today and maybe share one or two of my favourite discoveries with you. In the end I have settled on three peoms that resonate with me personally. See what you think...
'An Irish Airman Forsees His Death'
Love him or hate him, you certainly can't ignore Shane MacGowan, and this rendition - set to music - is no exception. What's interesting to me in this version is the frenetic pace with which the poem is recited, and this underscores the devil-may-care attitude of the protagonist. I'm not sure what Yeats himself would have made of it, but it is very compelling.
'The Song Of Wandering Aengus'
This reading by Michael Gambon, again set to music, was created by Tourism Ireland to commemorate Yeats Day activities.
While the reading is sublime, my only slight critique on this as a video is where the director went slightly overboard on the visual hyperbole. To me, the words and music are powerful enough to convey the epic beauty of this poem. (In truth, this is a great video if it was made for playing on the radio.)
So close your eyes and enjoy the dulcet tones of Michael Gambon in this very atmospheric poem of eternal love.
'Under Ben Bulben'
This was one of the last poems written by W. B. Yeats and runs to 6 verses which you can read in full here: wikisource.
The two excerpts below were read by the actor Richard Harris, and used as part of an album of Yeats's poems set to music entitled Now And In A Time To Be. I would love to have heard him recite this poem in full, but until then, two verses will have to do...