Colm Tóibín on his selection:
When W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory met at the end of the nineteenth century, she, thirteen years his senior, had published very little. She was a widow living in a large house called Coole Park in County Galway in West Ireland. He was every inch the young poet. She had one son, Robert, who spent most of his time in London. Until his marriage in 1917, Yeats spent the summers at Coole. He and Lady Gregory collaborated on many projects, including plays and the founding of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. In 1918, after Robert Gregory was killed in the First World War, Yeats came to Coole, joining Lady Gregory and her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Yeats there wrote his two great elegies for Robert: “In Memory of Major Robert Gregory,” a public poem remembering a hero, and the other, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” in a more hushed tone, written for a ghostly voice, attempting to offer his old friend comfort by finding a new context for his death, suggesting balance and completion for the dead airman rather than strife or tragedy.
These poems were written in a time of loss, in a place where no visitors came, when the house was isolated so that the poet could work.
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