CAST A COLD EYE

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The Yeats gravestone at Drumcliffe affects people in different ways. Ralph Giordano, in his recently published Mein Irisches Tagebuch, or My Irish Diary, has this to, say: "It is surprisingly simple, almost, one could say, primitive, with its scattered stones and the inscription equally proud and mystical . . . A few visitors remain standing before the unprepossessing grave, others pass casually. . . The grave, with its ugly grey stone, gives the impression that the last resting place of the Nobel Prizewinner of 1923 is deliberately kept modest or understated so that it will not become a place of pilgrimage. The dismissive adage adds to this."

And he tells how Heinrich Boll, another German who wrote of Ireland, stood there a long time ago "with crows overhead, at a wet, cold time of the year, but shivering more from the ambiguous inscription `Cast a cold eye - on life, on Death - Horse man, pass by'." Boll's own Irish Diary tells us, according to Giordano, that those words penetrated him with needles of ice, as at Swift's grave in Dublin's St Patrick's Cathedral. A Protestant sparseness seemed to diminish the image of Yeats at Drumcliffe for Giordano. But he was soon off to the heartier reminder of the poet in Thoor Ballylee.

The book has just been riffled through. The publisher's blurb tells us that Giordano found in Ireland the paradise he had been seeking all his life. Where, you will ask. At Lough Sheelin. This must have had much to do with the lovely house he stayed at Mallard Point, with friends. Perhaps also with the fact that a man of some years - he was born in 1923 - there he caught the first fish of his life, a trout, to him "the queen of Irish waters", and shortly thereafter a second trout. His host could only get a couple of pike. An apparently good humoured look around, though not always so about the North, it may be. He has previously written a travel book on Israel and one on East Prussia. More on the Irish Diary another day.

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