The wind was up all week, the tail end of a hurricane blown across the Atlantic.
We had blown in ourselves on a whim to drive part of the Wild Atlantic Highway, seduced by the romance of the name and stopped at Yeats’ Tower and then Coole Park, an unexpected find as we made our way back through Galway to the airport.
It was closed of course, the little cottage and the tower restored by Yeats himself for his wife. Was it this river he wandered and worried for Ireland and his daughter?
A Prayer for My Daughter
Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
A gardener , ruddy faced, rake in hand looked up, surprised, as we passed, not saying anything. The path was thick with wet sycamore leaves themselves covered with large black blight. He waved the rake at them as if by scaring them they would take themselves off. Perhaps it was us he wished to frighten off after all for disturbing the peace of his dank afternoon.
On to Coole Park and time enough before the plane for the walled garden at least. Bronze leaves settled on the few cars in the car park. A man changed his shoes for some serious walking.
‘How’s it going?’ He asked us.
Well, it was good.
The house itself has gone but the walled garden remains, a peaceful place between grey walls and the age and beauty of trees. I wondered if it was symmetry and the elegance of straight lines that gave the place its atmosphere but decided that indeed the garden had its own aura. Possible to imagine Yeats nursed back to health here and inspired by beauty and grace of a patron. Possible to imagine the bygone era and the literary greats flown like swans.
Solitude. This is what you need, the tool collector said
Imagine walking in those footsteps, carving initials in Lady Gregory’s autograph tree, never going out in the lanes, like Synge, but spending all the time in the woods or within the walls of the garden, protected from all sides bordered, secluded writing and thinking.
I would be as the leaf collector – happy to wander, rake in hand, not doing much but soaking it all up.