Under Ben Bulben: Analysis Part VI


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!


    In section VI, Yeats addresses his own mortality and his fast approaching death.  He gives specific examples of how he will be buried, even using his own name, "In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid."  He is well aware that he is in the twilight of his years, and that he does not have much more time in this world.  Yeats responds to this by preparing for his death, even writing his own epitaph, "Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman, pass by!" This epitaph suggests that Yeats was not worried about life or death, but rather with the legacy he leaves behind for the Irish people.  He can "cast a cold eye / On life, on death"  because this world will soon be over, and he will no longer have earthly concerns in the after life.  It is only artistic tradition and heritage that he is preoccupied with, and he uses this poem to state his hopes and worries for the coming generation of artists.  

Title Page  The Poem  Analysis Part I   Analysis Part II   Analysis Part III   Analysis IV   Analysis Part V   Analysis VI   Scansion   Biography