A terrible beauty – W.B. Yeats brought to life at BRLSI

With Friday’s Science lecture postponed, it fell to BRLSI’s Poetry Group to hold the final event of the ‘Academic Year’, before the lecture programme takes its August break. Quite an event it turned out to be, too, with the Duncan Room packed to overflowing to hear John Chambers speak with real passion about a passionate poet, William Butler Yeats, with readings from Yeats’ work by David Williams.
John had chosen poems that illustrated five of Yeats’ preoccupations: love, Ireland, philosophy, the craft of poetry and friendship. The first two dominated the evening, as they did Yeats’ life. We heard of his unrequited (though eventually briefly consummated) love for heiress and Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, his proposals of marriage to both Maud and her daughter Iseult (“not as bad as it sounds”, as John put it), and his eventual marriage to occultist Georgie Hyde-Lees, a surprisingly successful union which survived his prediliction for affairs in later life. We also heard much of Ireland’s history and the part played in it by Yeats,  the Protestant Nationalist who was appointed to the first Irish Senate and served in it through the civil war of 1922-3.
And we heard poems, some woven into John Chambers’s narrative, others read, more formally and with impeccable clarity, by David Williams (see video above). There wasn’t time for them all, but as BRLSI Poetry Convenor Janet Cunliffe-Jones said, perhaps there will be on another occasion. As it was, an appreciative audience went away with plenty to reflect upon during the summer break.

• BRLSI’s lecture programme is on holiday in August, but our exhibition Life in Roman Britain is open from August 2nd, Monday-Saturday, 10am – 4pm. Room hire is also available throughout the month. Lectures are back with a full programme in September – keep an eye on our What’s On and Poster Gallery page for details.