New York-based arts director Jane McCarter will never forget the love lines of WB Yeats after boyfriend Robbie O’Dowd handed her a bound copy of works of their favorite poet at their childhood meeting place.

When she opened it, and passed the first pages, she saw their favorite poem hand-written by O’Dowd with one of Yeats’ poignant lines: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams,” and beneath that the words: “Will you marry me?”

Below that, lying in hollowed out pages, lay an engagement ring, and when 29-year-old McCarter looked up O’Dowd was already on bended knee repeating the marriage proposal.

She said, “Of course I said yes. What Robbie did was completely overwhelming and so thoughtful.”

She added, “Robert, I can’t wait to continue spending our lives together. Love always.”

O’Dowd, 27, and McCarter, who both grew up and went to school in Buncrana, Co. Donegal have been going out for 13 years since they were teenagers.

Their favorite place, when they decided to started their romance, was a little sheltered side-gate in the front garden of McCarter’s parents’ home, Cloneen, in Buncrana.

It was their most romantic meeting place while they were penniless teenagers when they first held hands.

Graphic designer O’Dowd and McCarter, arts and cultural director of the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, Queens, have been in New York for the past three years.

Before they returned for a holiday to Buncrana last week O’Dowd had an inspiration for a special proposal. He bought a beautifully bound leather copy of the poems of WB Yeats at the famed Strand bookstore in New York.

Then he hand wrote a copy of the couple’s favorite poem, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” with the end line, “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

O’Dowd added one more line of his own at the end – will you marry me.

Then he placed a magnificent engagement ring attached to a specially designed bookmark in the hollowed-out pages and hid the hole with his hand-written poem and proposal. He sprang the surprise at the garden gate of McCarter’s parents’ home where they first held hands.

“I wasn’t damaging a rare book or an antique. I know I desecrated it but it was for a worthy cause and I needed a hole deep enough to hide the ring,” O’Dowd said.

The couple, who returned to New York within days of their engagement, haven’t yet fixed a wedding date but they plan to marry within two years.

“We don’t rush things, do we? It took me 13 years to propose so what’s another 18 months or two years before we marry,” O’Dowd said.