Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Horseman, Pass By


Last evening or so I saw on Jeopardy a category referring to famous gravestones. I, of course, immediately though of William B. Yeats’ grave and what with Halloween just around the corner I figured I would mix in some literary lore with the spooky spirit of the season. For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, allow me to briefly explain.

If you ever find yourself in west Ireland, on the road north of Sligo, you will find beneath the breathtaking mountains near the sea a grave in a chapel churchyard from the great poet Yeats. My wife and I visited his grave there and paid homage to the Irish writer, but I must admit that the famous last line on his gravestone has always both intrigued and befuddled me…“Horseman, Pass By.”

Ireland is of course replete with famous last words, such as Oscar Wilde’s famous remark on his deathbed about the terrible wall paper in his room, joking that between himself and the wallpaper, one of them must go. But Yeats’ gravestone has inspired many writers, including Pulitzer Prize winning Larry McMurtry who borrowed Yeats’ famous quote as the title of his first novel. Other gravestones of authors around the world are probably equally famous as well, like Edgar Allen Poe’s, which every year receives anonymous bottles of booze to commemorate his birthday. There are others I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention or do not yet know about. So this Halloween season, let me know of any other such unusual grave markers from poets and playwrights past. And who knows…you may just glean something from beyond the grave…