“The light of evening, Lissadell” Leonard Cohen Recites Yeats’ In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz: Lissadell House-Sligo 2010

William Butler Yeats wrote “In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz” in 1927. Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz (née Gore-Booth) were sisters who lived at Lissadell House in County Sligo. Constance (Con) died in 1927, and Eva in 1926. Yeats had been encouraged by them and entranced by their beauty. They are remembered in the poem as “Two girls in silk kimonos, both / beautiful, one a gazelle.” Both later became involved in Irish nationalist politics, and Constance was sentenced to death for her part in the Easter Rising of 1916, though the sentence was subsequently commuted. Eva later became active in the Women’s suffrage movement in Manchester, England. In the poem, Yeats laments the loss, not only of their physical beauty, but of their spiritual beauty – their later politics were far removed from the romantic ideal of Ireland that he had had in their youth. The second stanza speaks of the futility of their struggle, both his and the sisters’, when the real enemy is time itself: “The innocent and the beautiful / have no enemy but time.”1

 

Leonard Cohen Recites Lines From “In Memory Of Eva Gore-Booth And Con Markiewicz” By William Butler Yeats
Lissadell House-Sligo: July 31, 2010
Video by albertnoonan

 

In Memory Of Eva Gore-Booth And Con Markiewicz
By William Butler Yeats


The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
But a raving autumn shears
Blossom from the summer’s wreath;
The older is condemned to death,
Pardoned, drags out lonely years
Conspiring among the ignorant.
I know not what the younger dreams –
Some vague Utopia – and she seems,
When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,
An image of such politics.
Many a time I think to seek
One or the other out and speak
Of that old Georgian mansion, mix
pictures of the mind, recall
That table and the talk of youth,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Dear shadows, now you know it all,
All the folly of a fight
With a common wrong or right.
The innocent and the beautiful.
Have no enemy but time;
Arise and bid me strike a match
And strike another till time catch;
Should the conflagration climb,
Run till all the sages know.
We the great gazebo built,
They convicted us of guilt;

Bid me strike a match and blow.

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Aug 1, 2018.
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