Hi everyone. How are you all keeping? Safe and well I hope. I think we could all do with some words of comfort and beauty as these challenging days continue so this week I’m sharing some of my favorite Irish poems. My lead image is of a statue of perhaps Ireland’s most famous poet, WB. Yeats.
This striking and unusual representation of Yeats was unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the poets death in 1989. It stands outside the Ulster Bank building in Sligo town which according to Yeats bore a striking resemblance to the Royal Palace in Stockholm. He received his Nobel Prize for literature there in 1923. Let’s begin with some beautiful verses from this master;
Lulu’s Favorite Irish Poems
1. Lake Isle of Inisfree- William Butler Yeats
The Isle of Innisfree refers to the island in Lough Gill in Sligo where Yeats spent his childhood summers. The poem beautifully expresses his desire to return this place of peace and tranquility.
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 gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
2. The Foggy Dew- Katharine Tynan
Next up it’s a poem that beautifully expresses the poet’s yearning to return to Ireland. Katherine Tynan was born in County Dublin in 1859 but moved top England after she married. As well as writing poetry, she wrote over 100 novels and was a close friend of WB. Yeats.
A splendid place is London, with golden store,
For them that have the heart and hope and youth galore;
But mournful are its streets to me, I tell you true,
For I’m longing sore for Ireland in the foggy dew.
The sun he shines all day here, so fierce and fine,
With never a wisp of mist at all to dim his shine;
The sun he shines all day here from skies of blue:
He hides his face in Ireland in the foggy dew.
The maids go out to milking in the pastures gray,
The sky is green and golden at dawn of the day;
And in the deep-drenched meadows the hay lies new,
And the corn is turning yellow in the foggy dew.
Mavrone ! if I might feel now the dew on my face,
And the wind from the mountains in that remembered place,
I’d give the wealth of London, if mine it were to do,
And I’d travel home to Ireland and the foggy dew.
3. Digging – Seamus Heaney
Next on my list of Irish poems is from the great Seamus Heaney and is one of his best known works from his first major published volume, Death of a Naturalist
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
4. In Memory of my Mother – Patrick Kavanagh
Next up it’s this very moving yet ultimately uplifting poem from another one of our finest poets and novelists, Patrick Kavanagh.
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily
Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town
On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us – eternally.
5. The Grange- Rachael Hegarty
Last but certainly not least on my list of favorite Irish poems comes from my friend Rachel Hegarty. She has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards and I just loved her first collection Flight Paths Over Finglas. I was so honored and touched when she gifted me and my husband Brody with a specially written poem after a stay at our house in County Sligo.
Rachael’s poem Anne Byrne was also recently chosen as RTE’S Poem of The Day. Another beautiful piece of writing. Check it out here
I hope you enjoy these beautiful verses as much as I do. Thanks so much for reading. See you on Monday for further travels on my Virtual Tour of Ireland!
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!