On the Death of the Late Queen

George Farquhar
Irish
1677 – 1707

 

Whilst heaven with envy on the earth looked down,
Saw us unworthy of the royal pair,
And justly claimed Maria as its own,
Yet kindly left the glorious William here:
The heaven and earth alike do in the blessing share.
He makes the earth, she heaven our great allies,
And though we mourn, she for our comfort dies,
Nor need we fear the rash presumptuous foe,
Whilst she’s our saint above, and he our king below.

Meeting Point

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.

Louis Macneice
Irish
1907 – 1963

 

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise—
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

At Home in Winter

Eamon Grennan
Irish
b. 1941

 

I.

We sit across from one another
in front of the fire, the big logs
clicking and hissing. Outside
is bitter chill: branches stiffen,
grow brittle as crystal. You’re
sewing a skirt, your mouth
full of pins, your head swimming
with Greek and Latin. You frown
so not to swallow any pins when
you try to smile at me
slumped under my TLS and bewailing
the seepage of my days, the way
my life runs off like water, yet
inexplicably happy at this moment
balanced between us like a tongue
of flame skiving a pine-log: seeming
to breathe, its whole involuntary life
spent giving comfort. This
could be a way to live – nothing
going to waste, such fullness
taking off, warm space, a fragrance.
In plain matter of fact it’s
the sight of you bending to baste
the blue skirt before you pleat and
sew the waistband in, that enters
and opens inside me, so for a moment
I am an empty centre, nothing
at all
then back to this home truth
unchanged: you patiently taking
one thing at a time as I can’t,
all the while your head beating with
hexameters and foreign habits. So
I go on reading in silence as if
I hadn’t been startled into another life
for an instant all fire, all fragrance.

II.

I blow in from the noonwhite bite of snow
to find the whole house fragrant as a haycock
with the soup you’ve stirred up, its spirit
seeping into closets, curtains, bedrooms –
a prosperous mix of chicken-stock, carrots,
garlic, onion, thyme. All morning you’ve
wreathed your head in it, and turn to me now
like a minor deity of earth and plenty,
your hands dipped to the wrist in the flesh
of vegetables, your fingers trailing
threads from the glistening bones
cairned on the counter-top. You stand
on the edge of a still life – twist-strips
of onion peel, papery garlic sacs, bright
stumps of carrots, the delicate grass-green
stems of parsley, that little midden
of bones. Spell-stopped, I see how
in the middle of my daily life a sober house
with its feet on the ground, snowbound,
turns to spirit of chicken, airs a vegetable
soul, and breathes on me. Wooden spoon
still steaming, you turn away and say
in no time now we’ll sit, and eat.

A Single Rose

In honor of the Twelfth, we present this work by one of modern Ireland’s liveliest poets.

Leland Bardwell
Irish
1922 – 2016

 

I have willed my body to the furthering of science
Although I’ll not be there
to chronicle my findings
I can imagine all the students
poring over me:
“My God, is that a liver?
And those brown caulifowers are lungs?”
“Yes, sir, a fine example of how not to live.”
“And what about the brain?”
“Alas the brain. I doubt if this poor sample
ever had one.” As with his forceps
he extracts a single rose.

Boat Song

07-02-22 Columbanus
Columbanus
Irish
540 – 615

 

Lo, little bark on twin-horned Rhine, From forest hewn to skim the brine, Heave, lads, and the echoes ring!

The tempests howl, the storms dismay, But manly strength can win the day, Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring!

For clouds and squalls will soon pass on, And victory lie with work well done, Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring!

Hold fast! Survive! And all is well, God sent you worse, he’ll calm this swell, Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring!

So Satan acts to tire the brain, And by temptation souls are slain, Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him!

Stand firm in mind ‘gainst Satan’s guile, Protect yourselves with virtues foil, Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him!

Strong faith and zeal will victory gain, The old foe breaks his lance in vain, Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him!

The King of virtues vowed a prize, For him who wins, for him who tries, Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him!

Translation by Tomás Ó Fiaich

Broken Song

06-28 O'Neill
Moira O’Neill
Irish
1864 – 1955

‘Where am I from?’ From the green hills of Erin.
‘Have I no song then?’ My songs are all sung.
‘What o’ my love?’ ’Tis alone I am farin’.
Old grows my heart, an’ my voice yet is young.

‘If she was tall?’ Like a king’s own daughter.
‘If she was fair?’ Like a mornin’ o’ May.
When she’d come laughin’ ‘twas the runnin’ wather,
When she’d come blushin’ ‘twas the break o’ day.

‘Where did she dwell?’ Where one’st I had my dwellin’.
‘Who loved her best?’ There’s no one now will know.
‘Where is she gone?’ Och, why would I be tellin’!
Where she is gone there I can never go.

The Place of the Damned

Jonathan Swift
Irish
1667 – 1745

 

All folks who pretend to religion and grace,
Allow there’s a HELL, but dispute of the place:
But, if HELL may by logical rules be defined
The place of the damned -I’ll tell you my mind.
Wherever the damned do chiefly abound,
Most certainly there is HELL to be found:
Damned poets, damned critics, damned blockheads, damned knaves,
Damned senators bribed, damned prostitute slaves;
Damned lawyers and judges, damned lords and damned squires;
Damned spies and informers, damned friends and damned liars;
Damned villains, corrupted in every station;
Damned time-serving priests all over the nation;
And into the bargain I’ll readily give you
Damned ignorant prelates, and counsellors privy.
Then let us no longer by parsons be flammed,
For we know by these marks the place of the damned:
And HELL to be sure is at Paris or Rome.
How happy for us that it is not at home!

Mother

We present this work in honor of Mother’s Day.

05-08 Ridge
Lola Ridge
Irish
1873 – 1941

Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors…
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall…
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.

Clearing Out

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 70th birthday.

04-22 Dawe
Gerald Dawe
Irish
b. 1952

I pick up a ball of twine
to tie-off newspapers
for recycling –

thick brown twine
that’s been here for ages –
twine from the butchers,

twine from the electricians,
twine for parcels
the kind everyone had –

alongside candles,
Camp coffee, waxed oven paper,
little bottles of essences –

the last thing
you’d ever think of
until you’d go looking

in the cubby hole
under the stairs
where the splintered mirror

lies upended,
reflecting whatever comes its way –
all those quick glances

before work each morning
or last thing at night,
taking in the sunlight,

the frost and the rain,
the unfamiliar heat,
the bedroom quiet.

Easter Day

We present this work in honor of Easter Day.

04-17 Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Irish
1854 – 1900

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.

Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendor and in light the Pope passed home.

My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,

I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise My feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”