Mythology in the Earth

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

The mysticism in W. B. Yeats’s poems brings me back to my first week here in Ireland, visiting Newgrange. The poems make my mind swirl with questions like Newgrange did. There is much imagery, beauty, and perplexities. I find it interesting that Newgrange had so many images of swirls inside and outside of the structure and Yeats puts an emphasis on gyres in his poems. Perhaps Yeats’s poems answer my question as to why there were so many swirls exhibited in Newgrange. Could it be because they are a symbol of space and time? The circular nature of life and death? I feel it makes sense for a tomb to have symbols that utilize this cycle of life. Maybe the people in the Neolithic period were also grappling with the impermanence of life and the question on how to remain even after our mortal bodies are gone.

Another similarity between Yeats and Newgrange is the attention to and admiration of the sun and nature. When I was at the National Library of Ireland exploring the Yeats Exhibit, I saw a case that mentioned that he had a “desire to root ‘mythology in the earth’”, which is evident in much of his poetry. The case showcased Junzo Sato’s sword that he gifted to Yeats, which inspired a few of Yeats’s poems. I think it is marvelous how Yeats’s mythologies and beliefs, like his dedication to astrology, were infused into everything he saw. The mysticism and appreciation of nature allowed him to take every day, seemingly mundane images and become inspired, which resulted in his extraordinary poetry. Even though I have to read his poetry multiple times to even begin to feasibly grasp what he is saying, it is well worth it. There is magic in his writing.

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

W. B. Yeats, “The Song of Wandering Aengus”


  1. Wow, I love this! I really like how you connected the gyre in Yeats’ poetry with the symbols at Newgrange. I also think it’s really fascinating how Yeats really inundated his work with his mind/beliefs in the way that he does. It is definitely confusing, and I still can’t even figure out what the majority of his poems are supposed to be about, but it is definitely a magical journey he takes us on.

  2. This is really insightful and interesting! Given Yeats’s preoccupation with the ancient lore and mythology of Ireland, I would be interested to further explore how this preoccupation might have influenced the personal cosmology he developed.

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