Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Literature in Ireland

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Learning First Hand About Yeats

Jack Reuter '09 - Today we visited the National Library and William Butler Yeats exhibition followed by a tour of the Guinness storehouse at St. James’ Gates. It was incredible to not only observe one of the settings from James Joyce’s Ulysses in the upper reading rooms of the library, but, in regards to the Yeats exhibit, see first hand the notes and writings of such an influential poet and author.

I was already familiar with Yeats’ writing having closely studied his work in English 340 last year. It seems that when one observes the genuine hand-written poems right there, inches from your grasp, the poetry takes on a whole new relevance. It’s like, “Wow, at one time William Butler Yeats actually leaned over this scrap of paper and composed some of the greatest poetry ever written.” On the other hand, I also wonder how he ever read it since most of hand-written pieces are no better than chicken scratch. From a biographical standpoint, the exhibit had quite a few personal effects in their collection that had been donated by Yeats’ family, including several distinct articles including his glasses, a lock of his hair, and certain items from his association with the cult organization, Golden Dawn.

The tour of the Guinness storehouse was also a great experience. Not only because I have a personal fondness for the sweet nectar of the gods, but I hadn’t realized just how much Guinness has been an iconic cultural fixture for almost 300 years. Approaching the storehouse, we were greeted by the sweet aroma of roasted barley and, upon entering, encountered massive old machinery and accouterment left over from the earliest days of the brewery’s first production of arguably the world’s most famous beer.

Amongst other things, we got to learn the processes of brewing through the aid of electronic presentations set in a variety of old brewing tools and barrels, observe Guinness memorabilia collected over the years, see the 9000 year lease signed by Guinness himself, and of course got to sample a taste of Guinness to cap our experience.