Thoor Ballylee

Thoor Ballylee

Thoor Ballylee is a sixteeneth century norman castle built by the family de Burgo, or Burke. It consists of four floors with one room on each, connected by a spiral stone stairway built into the seven-foot thickness of the massive outer wall. Each floor has a window overlooking the Cloon River which flowed alongside. At the top here is a flat roof reached by a final steep flight of steps from the floor below. The poet W. B. Yeats was so enchanted with this  tower house that he purchased the property in 1916 and restored it. For twelve years Yeats made “Thoor Ballylee” his summer home. After the Yeats family moved out in 1929 it fell into disuse, but was restored as ‘Yeats Tower’ in 1965 and fitted out as a Yeats museum, containing an interesting collection of first editions as well as items of furniture.

Here is the first stanza of “The Winding Stair,” inspired by the castle.

The Winding Stair

My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
‘Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul

William Butler Yeats