From Galway stone, Yeats made a monumental poetic symbol. “I declare this tower is my symbol,” he said.
Ballylee Castle, a 14th century Norman stronghold had fallen into disrepair and disuse by the time Yeats stumbled upon the structure. He took note of it because of its proximity to the beautiful Mary Hynes, who lived nearby. When on the verge of marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lees, Yeats cast about for a place to settle and recalled the abandoned tower, now in the possession of the Congressional District Board. An additional draw was its nearness to the home of his benefactor, Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory.
“I the poet William Yeats,
With common sedge and sea green slates
And smithy work from the Gort forge
Restored the tower for my wife, George
And on my heirs, I lay a curse
If they should alter for the worse,
From fashion or an empty mind
What Raftery built and Scott designed…”
This poem changed as plans were thwarted… The rats got at the dry thatch, for example. So “common sedge” became “old mill boards” and no longer “laying a curse” the poem turned fatalistic:
“And may these characters remain,
When all is ruin once again.”
The Yeats family spent summers here until 1929. The space inspired much of Yeats’ poetry from that time:
The winding stair:
His wife, George is a very intriguing lady… She married Yeats in 1917, when she was 25 and the poet was 52. Georgie was intelligent, educated and well versed in occult studies. George’s previously undiscovered “ability” at automatic writing was revealed during the couple’s honeymoon. She felt that she was the medium through which the writing emerged. This automatic script continued for more than two years. At times it was intense, coming forth in various forms. The writing centered on the symbolism of the sun and moon – ideas so exciting that Yeats immediately made plans to publish. The end result was “A Vision” – published in 1925.
Married life somewhat settled the poet – a man who to this point had been consumed with unrequited love for his muse Maud Gonne. Maud was actually one of nine of Yeats’ muses. In his book, “W.B. Yeats and the Muses,” Joseph M. Hassett explains;
“from the outset of his career Yeats was convinced that art at its most sublime springs from the influx of a supernal form of knowledge far beyond the realm of ordinary discourse. In following this belief Yeats was predisposed to accept the Greek idea that poetry is inspired by the Muses, as expressed in Plato’s dictum that “all good poets…compose their beautiful poems not by art [techne] but because they are inspired and possessed” by the Muse who speaks through them…
Yeats’ wife Georgie, bore him two children – a daughter, Anne and a son -Michael. After the birth of Michael the automatic writing seems to have ceased and with it, Georgie’s interest in sex. And as you can imagine, the passionate poet once again had other women in his life – a situation, George seemed to tolerate. At the time of his death in France in 1939, his last muse – Edith Shackleton-Heald, was beside him along with Georgie.