Literary Daybook, Jan. 28

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

Published January 28, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Today in fiction

On Jan. 28, 1983, Betsy gives birth to a baby boy.
-- "The Stallion" (1996)
by Harold Robbins

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
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Today in Literary History

On this day in 1939, William Butler Yeats died in France, at the age of 74. Five months before his death, Yeats wrote "Under Ben Bulben," a poem described as "his poetical last will and testament" for its powerful restatement of his mystical belief in gyre-history and reincarnation and Ireland:

"A brief parting from those dear
Is the worst man has to fear.
Though grave-diggers' toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong.
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again."

He pledges Irish poets to "Sing whatever is well made," from "The holiness of monks, and after/To porter-drinkers randy laughter ... That we in coming days may be/Still the indomitable Irishry." And he concludes with his own burial instructions -- in the Drumcliff churchyard of his ancestors, under the shadow of Ben Bulben mountain where he spent much of his youth -- and with his own epitaph:

"No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"

WWII caused Yeats to be first buried in France; in 1948 he was reinterred according to his wishes.

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," e-mail Steve King.

By the Salon Books Editors

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