June 17, 2010
Since yesterday was Bloomsday I thought today would be a good day to commemorate another Irish writer who was interested in Buddhism for a moment, though the moment was admittedly brief. Sunday was William Butler [W.B] Yeats’s birthday. One the books that first sparked Yeats’s interest in spirituality was about esoteric or Vajrayana Buddhism. He read D.T. Suzuki’s Essays in Zen Buddhism and received every copy of the journal Eastern Buddhist until his death. While Buddhism never featured prominently in his poetry or plays, his works were deeply shaped by Irish folklore, mysticism, and religious traditions. These poems helped forge a sense of Irish national identity in the years before the revolution. His 1892 poem, 'The Lake Isle to Innisfree' begins:
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Image: Bettmann/Corbis; found here.