(O’Toole’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 9/9.)
During the summer, I was at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. While there, I was invited to Broc House, Damien Brennan and Paula Gilvarry’s home overlooking Lough Gill. There is a long set of windows facing the lake, and what opens in front of you is a breathtaking landscape that is at once visual and verbal.
This fabulous view is also a setting for some of WB Yeats’s poems. You can see the rock of Dooney, where the fiddler lives. There’s the shore, “Where dips the rocky highland/ Of Sleuth Wood in the lake” (The Stolen Child). Lurking behind one outcrop is the Lake Isle of Inisfree. And over to the left is the hazel wood where the wandering Aengus went because the fire was in his head.
These places are now double. They have a physical existence and an imaginative presence, and the two are forever intertwined. It’s a fair bet that in 100 or 200 years, people will be looking at that landscape, not just for its intrinsic beauty, but through the prism of a poet’s language.