Abdul Abulbul Amir

Percy French
Irish
1854 – 1920

 

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
Or harass the foe from the rear,
Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
For Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer,
Downtown he did go where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Young man, quoth Abdul, has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
Vile infidel, know, you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
And send your regrets to the Czar
For by this I imply, you are going to die,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Singing, “Allah! Il Allah! Al-lah!”
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
For Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
Say that hash was first made on the spot.

They fought all that night neath the pale yellow moon;
The din, it was heard from afar,
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar.

As Abdul’s long knife was extracting the life,
In fact he was shouting, “Huzzah!”
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh,
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

There’s a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And graved there in characters clear,
Is, “Stranger, when passing, oh pray for the soul
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.”

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread wide and far,
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back,
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
‘Neath the light of the cold northern star,
And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Planter’s Daughter

Austin Clarke
Irish
1896 – 1974

 

When night stirred at sea
And the fire brought a crowd in,
They say that her beauty
Was music in mouth
And few in the candlelight
Thought her too proud,
For the house of the planter
Is known by the trees.

Men that had seen her
Drank deep and were silent,
The women were speaking
Wherever she went —
As a bell that is rung
Or a wonder told shyly.
And O she was the Sunday
In every week.

The Witch-Bride

We present this honor of Halloween.

William Allingham
Irish
1824 – 1889

 

A fair witch crept to a young man’s side,
And he kiss’d her and took her for his bride.

But a Shape came in at the dead of night,
And fill’d the room with snowy light.

And he saw how in his arms there lay
A thing more frightful than mouth may say.

And he rose in haste, and follow’d the Shape
Till morning crown’d an eastern cape.

And he girded himself, and follow’d still
When sunset sainted the western hill.

But, mocking and thwarting, clung to his side,
Weary day!—the foul Witch-Bride.

Escape

W.R. Rodgers
Irish
1909 – 1969

 

The roads of Europe are running away from the war,
Running fast over the mined bridge and past the men
Waiting there, with watch, ready to maim and arrest them,
And strong overhead the long snorings of the planes’ tracks
Are stretching like rafters from end to end of their power.
Turn back, you who want to escape or want to forget
The ruin of all your regards. You will be more free
At the thoughtless centre of slaughter than you would be
Standing chained to the telephone-end while the world cracks.

Written at Killarney, July 29, 1800

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 250th birthday.

Mary Tighe
Irish
1772 – 1810

 

How soft the pause! the notes melodious cease
Which from each feeling could an echo call;
Rest on your oars; that not a sound may fall
To interrupt the stillness of our peace:

The fanning West-wind breathes upon our cheeks
Yet glowing with the sun’s departed beams.
Thro’ the blue Heav’ns the cloudless moon pours streams
Of pure resplendent light. in silver streaks

Reflected on the still unruffled lake.
The Alpine hills in solemn silence frown,
While the dark woods nights deepest shades embrown.
And now once more that soothing strain awake!

Oh! ever to my heart, with magic power,
Shall those sweet sounds recall this rapturous hour.

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.