Coole Park and Yeats’ Tower
Part of our class focus this week was on the “Irish Literary Revival” of the late 1800s – early 1900s. We visited some important sites associated with this cultural movement. The first stop was Lady Augusta Gregory’s former estate at Coole Park. Lady Gregory was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, but she took a profound interest in the language and folktales of the common Irish people. Students read the play she co-wrote with W.B. Yeats, “Cathleen Ni Houlihan,” which embodies Ireland as a suffering old woman. Lady Gregory and Yeats were also two of the founders of the Abbey Theatre, which we visited last week. Yeats paid tribute to Coole Park in a number of his poems. One of the best-known, “The Wild Swans at Coole,” ends with this stanza:
“But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?”
Coole Park became a pilgrimage site for many budding Irish writers, who were invited to carve their initials into a beautiful copper beech tree in the formal garden.
After lunch we traveled a few miles up the road to W.B. Yeats’ “house,” Thoor Ballylee. To feel more in touch with the Irish past, Yeats bought a Norman “tower house” built in the 1300s, and an impressive piece of architecture it is.
We were able to climb the famous “winding stair” (which became the title of one of Yeats’ poetry collections) and emerge on the battlement of the tower. Those with knowledge of feudal warfare pointed out that those climbing the stairs had to wield swords with their left hand, a disadvantage for non-lefties.
That’s it for Week 2. Students have the weekend to explore Galway, and some are off to the Cliffs of Moher.
slán go fóill