It’s a depressing November morning when I walk into the Drumcliff churchyard. I am looking for the grave of W B Yeats, the literary stalwart. Locally he remains an iconic figure having been born and brought up in Sligo. The dark clouds burst into an aggressive drizzle the moment I enter the simple and small stone church. The literary giant’s great-grandfather was a rector here.
To the left is a tiny graveyard, neatly laid out and well-tended. And there, right in front is the grave of the Nobel laureate. Unassuming, non-descript and totally devoid of any fancy stuff. I don’t know if it’s the dull weather or the sudden drizzle but I am disappointed. Or maybe I was expecting something more ostentatious, maybe a special corner dedicated to a famous poet.
But it isn’t so. This is just an ordinary grave—cemented at the borders with a layer of gravel sprinkled on it. A small pot placed at the centre of the grave looks like it must have been a lush green plant some days back but resembles only dried grass now. The tombstone, bathed in the drizzle, has acquired a darker shade of black highlighting his self-composed epigraph from the poem `Under Ben Bulben’.
Situated between Donegal and Sligo Town, Drumcliff kisses the feet of the majestic table mountain, Ben Bulben. Such was his love for this area that the Irish poet had declared it as his final resting place, his abode in eternity. In 1939, just before he died in France Yeats had asked to be buried on a mountain but then be taken to Sligo, where he was born and brought up. Lingering memories of his childhood had obviously never left him.
Yeats spent his last moments at France’s Hotel Ideal Sejour and was buried at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. But in 1948, his body was exhumed and laid to rest in his motherland. His wife Georgie Hyde-Lee, almost 30 years his junior, is buried adjacent to him.
Inconspicuous it may be but the grave of W B Yeats has character, great character just like the noted poet. I am no longer disappointed. In fact, I am very happy for I’ve connected to the sentiment and principle of the learned man. When I had travelled to Drumcliff it was in search of a dead poet’s grave, possibly a memorial dedicated to an internationally renowned figure.
On my way back home, I realise that the much-quoted epitaph on his tombstone now unravels a deeper meaning to me…
Cast A Cold Eye
On Life, On Death
Horseman Pass By…