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Horseman Pass By

"Under Ben Bulben" is a long poem written by Irish poet W. B. Yeats. It was one of the last poems he wrote, and the last three lines decorate his gravestone in Drumcliffe, County Sligo, Ireland. Those three short lines have puzzled analysts ever since. What do they mean?

One suggestion is:Yeats
Yeats had an uncomfortable time with Christianity - both Catholic and Protestant - and his epitaph seems to say: I viewed you (God) with contempt in Life, and now in Death, so if there is a Christian Apocalypse, ignore me, I still want no part of it. Just let me rest in peace."

Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
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.


I've always loved that epitaph and WB was a mighty poet!
He was that.
personally i think he meant he felt he was too passionate in life about both life and death (cf his arguments with maud gonne) and wished he had "cast a colder eye" himself, and left that as a suggestion to his survivors.
Thanks for that.
thanks for the discussion!