September 2013


September 1913
William Butler Yeats

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the ha’pence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save?,
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,

It’s with O’Leary in the grave.
Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry ‘Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son’:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.

Inspired by Dublin Corporation’s refusal to provide financial assistance to Sir Hugh Lane for the building of a modern art gallery in the city, Yeats’ poem was published in The Irish Times 100 years ago today. The picture above shows one of the designs prepared by Edwin Lutyens for the projected gallery, not that of a bridge spanning the river Liffey but more conventionally sitting within the western railings of St Stephen’s Green.
You can discover more about the events behind the writing of September 1913 by watching:

5 comments on “September 2013

  1. Nancy C. Gorman says:

    A beautiful watercolour Where would one see more of these?

    Sent from my iPad

    • Thank you for your interest in this. There are two watercolours, one of this design and one of the bridge design – both painted by William Walcott for Edwin Lutyens as a means of illustrating his proposals for a new gallery in Dublin. Reproductions of both are relatively easy to find on the internet…

  2. Mairtin D'Alton says:

    Either building would have been an ornament to the city

    • Actually the bridge design, although wonderfully romantic, might have been rather impractical, not least because the Liffey isn’t that wide and therefore the galleries would have had to stretch a long way on either side of the quays. A gallery inside St Stephen’s Green on the other hand…

      • Mairtin D'Alton says:

        In addition to the damp conditions of the river affecting the paintings, however i am a big Lutyens fan and optimistic he could have over come the difficulties….

Leave a Reply