Swans glided into my life in the Autumn of 1980 ~ thirty-five years ago now.

That was the year that my sweetheart was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just six or eight weeks to live. He died on January 5th, 1981.

We got the chance to walk by lakes, rivers and the sea where we talked very openly of life and love but only in a veiled way about shattered hopes and dreams.

Wherever we went, there were swans; elegant, white companions who seemed to understand all our bittersweetness and melancholy.

That was a time to live in the present and savour each precious moment. The sun shone for us as the leaves turned  like setting suns and fell to create a crunchy carpet.

William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney have written about swans in ways that suggest they understood how these magnificent creatures can linger in the heart and memory forever and ever.


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

(Seamus Heaney)

Thirty-five years may be a long time but an Autumn has never passed without the arrival of the swans back into my world in late September. I glimpsed them the other evening as I drove over the little bridge at Annestown here in Co. Waterford and yesterday I spent a few happy hours just watching them as I soaked up the hazy sunshine.

Swans 2

These lines from W.B. Yeats’ Wild Swans at Coole kept floating into my mind:

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

Time is a healer in many ways but there is something about lost love that simply isn’t about ‘healing.’ Rather, it’s about remembering, celebrating and incorporating into the tapestry of living, learning and continuing to love.

Festival of Bridges # 16 ~ Tread Softly

The Festival of Bridges brings us to Sligo town, this morning, and thoughts of W.B. Yeats, thanks to Val Rebus who has the brilliant Magnumlady’s Blog

Here is the photograph that Val sent:

IMG_4785 (1)
Hyde Bridge, Sligo, Ireland

Val describes the scene as follows:

This is the Hyde bridge in Sligo. The old building in the centre of the photo is the Yeats Memorial Building. It was fermerly the Allied Irish Bank but was given to the Yeats Society in 1973.

You can find out about Yeats and his circle here with an audio-visual exhibition on the life of William Butler Yeats and his contemporaries.

It is also home to ‘The Yeats Library’ which includes over 3,000 titles and 54 years of audio-visual archive which is available for scholars for research purposes.  

Upstairs is the Hyde Bridge Gallery where art exhibitions are held throughout the year.

W.B. Yeats’ poetry is very close to my heart and Val’s photograph brought this particular favourite to mind immediately:

Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
(W.B. Yeats)
The Festival of Bridges runs until October 31st. Submissions are now closed. 


W.B. Yeats ~ 149 Years On

Rosa 'Fellowship'

William Butler Yeats was born on June 13th, 1865 and I can’t let this day go by without honouring the man whose poetry is fundamentally knitted into my everyday life.

I have no idea if other people have a poet whose words, lines and poems are so deeply embedded that they automatically spring forth like as if  predictive thought was somehow switched on.

I just have to glimpse the sun or the moon and it’s:

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

(from The Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B. Yeats)

October, which is my birth month, always, always, always evokes thoughts of  The Wild Swans at Coole:

‘The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans….

When I’m waiting for a response to something that’s important to me, WB is invariably there whispering:

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

And he’s the one who knows everything about:

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you.

How often I look at loved ones who are frazzled, overwrought, over-working and know that Yeats’, like me, would bid them:

… take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs

And, with mind-blowing  interconnections and intertwinings emerging all the time, I tend to refer back to Yeats’ great final line of Among School Children:

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

So many great lines, comforting words, evocative poems and sheer resonance!  W.B. Yeats, how glad I am that I live at a time when I’ve had the chance to bathe and soak in your tapestry of poetic genius.

W.B. Yeats
W.B. Yeats