Is Romantic Ireland dead and gone, would you say?

portrait of W.B. Yeats an oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
“Hazelwood”, 20 x 20cm, oil on canvas, 2015

I know, there’s an awful lot on about the poet W.B.Yeats at the moment, you might be getting tired of it but… well I just have to tell you this and then I’ll stop, I promise.  I got an invitation this morning, to an extra special, once-in-a-lifetime event, celebrating Yeats’s poetry in Sligo on Yeats’s Day. But just wait till you hear who’ll be at it! – This event features the Chair of Irish Poetry, Paula Meehan; the Poet Laureate of England, Carol Ann Duffy; the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke; the National Poet of Scotland, Liz Lochhead; the London Laureate, Aisling Fahey and the Northern Irish Poet, Sinead Morrissey. And in the midst of all that Pageantry and Poetry, our own Uachtarán/poet: Michael D. Higgins, will be the special guest for the evening.

So how come I was invited? Well, maybe you heard that the Hamilton Gallery in Sligo invited over 50 of Ireland’s leading contemporary visual artists to create an artwork, inspired by the life and writings of the poet W.B. Yeats – all sorts of wonderful artists including (ahem) RHA members James Hanley, Martin Gale and Nick Miller, and others including Ian Wieczorek, Brian McDonagh, Trudie Mooney and yes – me!  The exhibition is entitled: Impressions and Portraits of W.B. Yeats and is described as ‘a compelling, contemporary response to the work of one of our literary giants for his 150th birthday’.  All the artworks are only 20 centimetres square. That’s mine above and yes, you’re right – I’ve also completed a much bigger portrait of Yeats for the Hodges Figgis Bookshop, for a show curated by Olivier Cornet.  That’s the one below.

"Golden", 90 x 120cm, oil on canvas, 2015
“Golden”, 90 x 120cm, oil on canvas, 2015

But back to the question about Romantic Ireland?  Hmmm… well, there must be some reason why so much is being made of Yeats’s poetry, 75 years after he died. Are we all Romantics at heart? And yet, people are so cynical these days, so dismissive of the Romantic’s dream… What do you think?  What is meant by ‘Romantic Ireland’, for starters? Romanticism, according to Wikipedia, was  ‘an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe in the 18th century… a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment… emphasising the primacy of the emotions over rational thought’.  I understand it as a yearning for the past, for Paradise Lost, a yearning for a time, long long ago when humankind was at one with nature, when warriors and heroes roamed the earth… Perhaps Yeats was referring back to the days of the mythological Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his legendary knights Na Fianna,  (the motto of Na Fianna was: Glaine inár gcroíthe, Neart inár ngéaga agus Beart de réir ár mbriathar – ie: Purity in our hearts, Strength in our limbs and Truth in our words).

Perhaps he was just sick of the leaders and politcians of the day, and sick of the way the country was going. Sound familiar?  “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” – that’s a quote from Yeats. It sounds to me like he was talking about himself!

So, as you see, I don’t have an answer for you. Is Romantic Ireland dead and gone? Did it ever really exist? Are you yearning for a fairer, more honourable society? I’d love to hear your views.

And the art exhibition in the Hamilton Gallery will continue until the 29th of August.  More details at And there’s more about my paintings at:  and

and more about the Yeats celebrations at:

and just for you, here’s a wonderful rendition of The Song of Wandering Aengus by actor Michael Gambon. This is from the “Yeatsday” website :








  1. Dearly loved this piece, and yes, there has always been and always will be, a Romantic Ireland. The first time I made a visit to Yeat’s grave, I went into the church there at Drumcliff. There was not a soul around. I read from a Yeats anthology and could see my breath in the cold, early spring air. It was the most moving experience I’ve ever had in a church. Then I made two pencil rubbings of the man’s tombstone, one for me, one for my father. I copied “Under Ben Bulben” on each of them and had them framed. When I presented my father’s copy to him, he fought back tears (the man cried twice in his life that I know of) upon recognising what I’d given to him. Then he collected himself, thanked me, and said “The pencil rubbings are beautiful. But your writing needs a little work.” I said, “That’s Yeats, Dad.” He passed away a week later. “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by!” Thanks for reviving the memory.


  2. Many congratulations Eoin; wonderful work and an interesting blog. Ireland has much to celebrate in Yeats’ special year.


  3. I received this comment by email from my favourite aunt in Canada –

    Congratulations on being invited to the Yeats Day celebrations. Your pictures of W.B.Yeats are wonderful – especially the very small one. I love it .

    To me Romanticism is a reference to dreamers. But I prefer it to be dreamers about the future and not of the past. Although we may think the world was kind to it’s inhabitants and one with nature in the dim distant past, if that was so, there would not have been a need for warriors, would there?

    I am reminded of the way our native people attribute all their problems to the white man’s coming to North America and the dreadful things that were done. – There were indeed dreadful things and dreadful policies, some of which were done with good intent i.e. integration and conversion to Christianity ( I am not defending it ), I doubt the residential schools the Indian Children were sent to were any worse than the orphanages in England and Ireland – your grandfather had things to say about those. But the native people were quite dreadful in the way they treated their prisoners when they were at war so let us not pretend that life was idyllic before Colonization .it was not! – there was starvation and cruelty and slavery. The world does not seem to change. Just the bad events move from place to place. It would seem that there is not much justice. Some of us are more fortunate than others.

    So let the Romantics dream about a better future and work towards that – as I think you are doing. Love, Charlotte


  4. I am so delighted for your (well-deserved) recognition and inclusion in these marvelous events! Cheers to you for such accomplishment, and for the gorgeous realization of the portraits.

    I consider myself a hopeful romantic, one who believes that art and beauty and imagination feed, and are in turn fed by, the extraordinary wonders of nature and science, will save the world more than any other single thing. We are made better by pursuing the arts, immersing in them. And every time anyone does so with skill and passion, it renews my hope and my faith in humans’ potential and purpose. So thanks to you for that, too!

    Enjoy your elevation!!!


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