THE VOICE OF IRISH POETRY

Ploughing

INTRODUCTION

The beauty and richness of the Irish poetic voice and the power and inspiration of the language, renowned throughout the world, is still as alive and vivid today as it was in past centuries.

Ireland has produced several great poets including two Nobel prize winners in W B Yeats and Seamus Heaney.

I hope you like this selection of my favorites in which I feature many of the wonderful Irish poets of the past and present, iconic voices that inspire and adorn the minds of all who cherish the beauty and lyricism of poetic words. 

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by George Charles Beresford, sepia-toned platinotype, 15 July 1911

 

William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. 
 
Born: June 13, 1865, Sandymount
Died: January 28, 1939, Menton, France
Buried: September 1948, Drumcliff Cemetery

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

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Seamus Heaney.

 
 
Seamus Justin Heaney, MRIA was an Irish poet, playwright, translator and lecturer, and the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.
 
Born: April 13, 1939, Castledawson, Northern Ireland.
Died: August 30, 2013, Blackrock Clinic, Dublin
 

 

Follow

My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

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thomas-Moore

THOMAS MOORE

Thomas Moore was an Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and entertainer, now best remembered for the lyrics of “The Minstrel Boy” and “The Last Rose of Summer”. He was responsible, with John Murray, for burning Lord Byron’s memoirs after his death.
 
Born: May 28, 1779, Dublin
Died: February 25, 1852, Bromham, United Kingdom

The Last Rose of Summer

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie wither’d,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh ! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

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Patrick Kavanagh

PATRICK KAVANAGH

Patrick Kavanagh was an Irish poet and novelist. His best-known works include the novel Tarry Flynn, and the poems “On Raglan Road” and “The Great Hunger”. He is known for his accounts of Irish life through reference to the everyday and commonplace.
 Born: October 21, 1904, Inniskeen
Died: November 30, 1967, Dublin

Raglan Road

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay
O I loved too much and by such by such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say,
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.

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Padraic Colum

PADRAIC COLUM

Padraic Colum was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children’s author and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival.

Born: December 8, 1881, County Longford

Died: January 11, 1972, Enfield, Connecticut, United States

Education: University College Dublin

Awards: John Newbery Medal, Regina Medal

An Old Woman of the Roads

O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods against the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!

To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!

I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!

I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!

Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!

And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own
Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.

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Ledwidge Painting

FRANCIS LEDWIDGE

Francis Edward Ledwidge (19 August 1887 – 31 July 1917) was an Irish war poet from County Meath. Sometimes known as the “poet of the blackbirds”, he was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I.

A LITTLE BOY IN THE MORNING

He will not come, and still I wait.
He whistles at another gate
Where angels listen. Ah I know
He will not come, yet if I go
How shall I know he did not pass
barefooted in the flowery grass?

The moon leans on one silver horn
Above the silhouettes of morn,
And from their nest-sills finches whistle
Or stooping pluck the downy thistle.
How is the morn so gay and fair
Without his whistling in its air?
The world is calling, I must go.
How shall I know he did not pass
Barefooted in the shining grass?

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George Sigerson

GEORGE SIGERSON

George Sigerson (11 January 1836 – 17 February 1925) was an Irish physician, scientist, writer, politician and poet. He was a leading light in the Irish Literary Revival of the late 19th century in Ireland.[1]

Bantry Bay

As I’m sitting all alone in the gloaming,
It might have been but yesterday
That we watched the fisher sails all homing
Till the little herring fleet at anchor lay.
Then the fisher girls with baskets a swinging,
Came running down the old stone way.
Every lassie to her sailor lad was singing
A welcome to Bantry Bay.

Then we heard the pipers sweet note running,
And all the lassies turned to hear;
As they mingled with a soft voice crooning,
Till the music floated down the wooden pier,
Save you kindly Colleens all! said the piper,
Hands across the trip while I play,
And a tender sound of song and merry dancing,
Stole softly over Bantry Bay.

As I’m sitting alone in the gloaming
The shadows of the past draw near.
And I see the loving faces round me
That used to glad the old brown pier.
Some are gone upon their last homing
Some are left but they are old and gray,
And we’re waiting for the tide in the gloaming,
To sail upon the Great Highway,
To the land of rest unending,
All peacefully from Bantry Bay.

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oscar-wilde_1215690c

OSCAR WILDE

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s.
 
Born: October 16, 1854, Dublin
Died: November 30, 1900, Paris, France
 
REQUIESCAT 
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

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