By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)
‘Under Ben Bulben’ was completed in 1938, just one year before W. B. Yeats’s death. This makes it one of his last great poems; indeed, he dictated the final revisions to the poems from his deathbed. Yeats dated ‘Under Ben Bulben’ to September 4th, 1938.
The poem is perhaps best-known for its final three lines, which actually helped to inspire Yeats to write ‘Under Ben Bulben’: the lines ‘Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman, pass by!’ became Yeats’s epitaph, and can be found on his tomb. Anyway, the best way to offer an analysis of this poem is perhaps by going through it and summarising/analysing each section as we go.