Howth and W. B. Yeats
Unknown to a lot of people, even some residents, this small seaside village was once home to William Butler Yeats. An undeniably prolific poet and perhaps one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.
Before moving back to Ireland, W. B Yeats and his family had moved to the English countryside in an attempt to propel his father’s career as an artist. When he was 14, the family moved back to Ireland for financial reasons. Fortunately for Howth, they decided to move into a small seaside cottage on Balscadden Road.
It was during this period of his life when he first became published and began to make an impression on Ireland’s literary circles. The family moved away from Howth wherein Yeats became a distinguished writer and soon a celebrated name, not just locally but nationally.
Howth’s affinity for W. B Yeats is not just as a result of his residency here – although his presence and all the other renowned names that have chosen to dwell here, is a huge source of self-esteem for us.
Although he nor his family ever returned here to Howth, the village and it’s folklore remained a place to revisit and explore through his poetry and prose.
Howth first started appearing in his work as early as his 20’s, when his career really started to take off. It remained to pop up every now and then throughout his poetry and essays right up until the later years of his life, therefore proving the emotional connection he had with this particular place.
‘Village Ghosts’ a story within The Celtic Twilight collection is all about Howth, its residents and the otherworldly creatures that keep them company. It portrays Howth as a fairy land, where humans and magical beings exist alongside one another. And not to toot our own horn or anything, but have you seen the place? It’s beautiful! Like it fell right off the pages of an old fairy-tale.
Cowbooter’s Lane or Hospital Lane features heavily in this particular essay. Without spoiling anything, we’ll leave a link to the tale here and you can decide if it’s worth the visit yourself.
Now if you know Yeats at all, you’ll know about his obsession with Maud Gonne. And that’s putting it lightly, his adoration for Maud Gonne is probably the most perfect example of unrequited love that we’ve ever come across. Maud Gonne was a suffragette and an Irish revolutionary – a very influential female figure during the period and a very important person in Irish history.
Luckily for us, in one of the poems he wrote which includes her – places her in Howth. Specifically, it talks of her waiting for a train at Howth station. ‘Beautiful Lofty Things’ is as it’s title might suggest; a very beautiful poem. And it’s of great pride to us that he located Maud Gonne; the love of his life, right here where we live. He wrote the poem towards the end of his life, again demonstrating that the three years he spent here during his teens had a profound effect on his life.
In case you couldn’t tell, we think W. B Yeats is amazing and we’re shocked if you don’t too! Come to Howth, visit all the sites mentioned and see if our charm captures you just as it did Yeats.