Famous Irish Love Stories – Irish Romantic Poems
Diarmud & Grainne
One of the great romantic legends of Ireland is the tale of Diarmuid & Grainne. From ancient Irish prose, and with scripts dating back as far as the 10th century, this tale recounts the story of the great chief, Fionn, who although aging sought to the take the beautiful young princess Grainne as his second bride. On the night of the celebrations of their pending nuptials, Grainne set her eyes on one of Fionn’s finest warriors, Diarmuid. It was love at first sight. Grainne cast a spell on Diarmuid and the two ran away together across the River Shannon, pursued by Fionn and his army. As prophesised, Diarmuid was attacked by a wild boar while protecting the now pregnant Grainne. The only thing that could save him was to drink water from the magical hands of Fionn, who let the water slip through is fingers three times, letting Diarmuid die in bitter sweet revenge.
This is the story of a man and woman
under a willow and beside a weir
near a river in a wooded clearing.
They are fugitives. Intimates of myth.
From ‘Listen’ by Eavan Boland
WB Yeats & Maud Gonne McBride
Never in Irish History has there been such industrious, unrequited love, as that of poet WB Yeats and his muse Maud Gonne. In 1889, when Yeats was just 23 he met Gonne in London, and it was his exquisite affection for her that had him pursue her for the rest of his life. Yeats proposed marriage several times to her throughout his life, always to be refused. The fierce passion his love for Gonne stirred, shaped and inspired some of the most beautiful romantic poetry of the 20th Century.
English born, Maud Gonne recognised the plight of the Irish Nation and while she is remembered as a great agitator and revolutionary of the rising in Ireland, she is equally remembered for being Yeats’ Helen of Troy, Deirdre, the Secret Rose, his Cathleen Ni Houlihan.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire
Take down this book and slowly read
And dream of the soft look your eyes had once,
And of their shadows deep
How many loved your moments of glad grace
Or loved your beauty with love false or true
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your changing face
From ‘When you are old’ WB Yeats
Michael Collins & Kitty Kiernan
Irish Revolutionary leader, Michael Collins and his best friend Harry Boland met Kitty Kiernan in 1918, while canvassing in County Longford. In a historic love triangle that ensued during the war of independence, Kiernan kept regular contact by letter with both men.
In 1922 Kiernan had made her choice to marry Collins, their engagement announced during treaty debates in the Dáil (Assembly of Ireland) by Collins himself.
Give us the future, we’ve had enough of your past
Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in, to love…
Quote by Michael Collins
Their wedding was planned for October that year. Over 300 love letters passed between them, until Collins’ untimely assassination on August 2nd that year. Boland had been shot by Free State soldiers two weeks beforehand.
“Love hath a language of his own – A voice, that goes
From heart to heart – whose mystic tone
Love only knows.”
By Thomas Moore
While recently details of Collins other love interests come to life, it is these legendary romances, the tragic end to the fugitives Diarmuid & Grainne’s love affair, the unrequited love of Yeats for Maud Gonne and the unfortunate, untimely fate of Collins and Kiernan, that we realise a collective characteristic in their stories. Irish romance has thrived for centuries on the tails of war and revolution and the voices and passion of her people are ready to retell these stories in some of the most beautiful poetry of the isle.
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