Coole Park and Gardens, Gort, Co. Galway, Ireland
Literary Connections at Coole Park and Gardens, Gort, Co. Galway, Ireland

During the Gaelic Literary Revival in the late 19th and early 20th century Coole became a haven in which famous literary figures sought refuge from time to time, drawn by the hospitality and enthusiasm of Lady Gregory, whom George Bernard Shaw once described as the 'greatest living Irishwoman'.

Here they came together, as the class to which most of them belonged lost its political pre-eminence, to create from the embers of a dying order a new pre-eminence.
The names of many of those who contributed to the Literary Revival are engraved on Lady Gregory's Autograph Tree - the Copper Beech in the walled garden. The first name to be carved on it was that of Yeats himself, whom she asked to cut his initials in the summer of 1898.

Many drew inspiration from Coole. Lady Gregory tells us that when Synge visited Coole he never went out on the roads; all his time was spent in the woods.

However, it was Yeats who drew most from Coole, from the time he first arrived in 1897, in a state of physical and psychological exhaustion from which he was nursed back to health by Lady Gregory. He once described Coole to fellow poet John Masefield as the most beautiful place in the world. While he stayed, he really lived in another world. As he wandered the woods and grounds, lost in that landscape of the imagination, he would rarely respond to a greeting from somebody he didn't know, and would only listen 'if you talked of the faeries'.

For Yeats, Coole Park was more than the place we see today; indeed it was more than the place he saw himself. Not just because the house has gone and much else has changed since his time, but because he used the place and other symbols he most loved to express his vision of another world altogether - they were 'epiphanies of a truth beyond the limits of the accident that is Ben Bulben, Coole Park or Lissadel etc.'

'Under my window ledge the waters race,
Otters below and moor-hens on the top,
Run for a mile undimmed in Heaven's face,
Then darkening through 'dark' Raftery's 'cellar' drop,
Run underground, rise in a rocky place
In Coole demesne, and there to finish up
Spread to a lake and drop into a hole.
What's water but the generated soul?'

W.B. Yeats 'Coole Park and Ballylee, 1931'

Coole Park and Gardens, Gort, Co. Galway, Ireland

Coole Nature Reserve,
Co. Galway,