Reaching for Yeats
When times are uncertain we often reach for things that bring us solace. It may be listening to jazz or opera, reading an old familiar book, looking at a beautiful painting, or watching a classic movie. I default to an old dog-eared book of Yeats poetry. Not out of any lofty academic leaning but because it reminds me of school and the youthful affection I have always held for Yeats. Dipping into it yields long forgotten poems and those more familiar, which still delight.
The shores of Lough Gill
I stumbled across his poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” a few weeks ago. It stayed with me. It’s a beautiful poem: romantic and full of longing, he describes his desire to retreat to a small lake island in County Sligo, a place he knew well from his childhood.
Being no stranger to homesickness, while wandering the streets of London, he heard a small fountain trickling in a shop. It instantly brought him back to the waves lapping on the shores of Lough Gill. Conjuring up powerful memories and longing, it inspired him to write the poem. It is full of elegant imagery: the moon reflecting off the lake; the purple hue of the heather in the midday sun; the sound of the crickets and the honey-bees and the gentle lapping of the water against the shore. It’s easy to imagine yourself there.
He begins by saying:
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”
Of clay and wattles made
The remaining two verses are gorgeous, but I particularly love the reference to building a cabin “of clay and wattles”. The ancient art of building with wattle and daub was widespread in many cultures including that of the Celts. The frames of the traditional roundhouses were made of woven saplings, daubed with a mixture of wet clay and perhaps straw.
Chipping off outdated beliefs
The description of “wattle and daub” struck a chord with me. I thought it was a beautiful metaphor for learning. It speaks to our ability to add layer upon layer to our knowledge, to fill in the cracks that may appear, but also to chip off unwanted or outdated beliefs. A re-daubing of the gap, perhaps, with new learning – founded, of course, in up to date neuroscience.
– Blanaid Coveney
Blanaid is a practising physiotherapist in Dublin, Ireland. Her professional interests include pain, epidemiology and all things brain related