Irish poet and Nobel Laureate William Butler Yeats (W.B. Yeats), whose family had close associations with Sligo, chose the peaceful churchyard at Drumcliffe, where his great grandfather was once rector, as his final resting place.
Following his death in France in 1939, and due to the onset of the Second World War, Yeats was buried there before being reinterred in Drumcliffe in 1948. In accordance with his wishes, his gravestone is inscribed with the final lines of ‘Under Ben Bulben’, one of his last poems, completed in 1938.
Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!
Cloth of Heaven Sculpture
Located in the carpark south of the church is a bronze and stone artistic installation by sculptor Jackie McKenna titled “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”, in reference to a poem by W. B. Yeats. The installation incorporates a bronze figure crouching over the following lines from the poem:
“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.”
Commissioned by Drumcliffe Development Association with financial support from Sligo County Council and the National Roads Authority, the installation was unveiled in 2003. In 2018, the by-then iconic figure was stolen and reputedly destroyed. A new replacement figure was commissioned from the same artist in 2021, and funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development Town Village Renewal Scheme and Drumcliffe Rathcormac Tidy Towns Committee.