Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Blessing After Rain

When the sun comes out on Ireland,
It's God's own Grace at play;
When the sun comes out on Ireland,
All weariness melts away;

There's twittering in the boughs then,
And fragrance on the breeze,
And glistening in the hedges,
And music among the trees;

You may even see a rainbow 
As the old rain scatters light;
You may hear a fairy singing;
You may see a dream take flight.

Be wise, and seize the moment,
And join in the general song;
When the sun comes out on Ireland,
It's never for very long.

Lament for Old Things

The beautiful old buildings 
Are only for the cows –
And maybe the occasional ghost 
Who howls at the broken walls.

The living Irish make their homes 
In blank tan boxes, without history –
A bit like the faces of Irish girls,
So makeup-caked they all but disappear.

Prosperity has its dangers. This is one:
That you might lose that rugged detailing
That makes a house a house, a face a face.

Of course, it's not my business.
I'm a tourist here.
The houses weren't put there to please my eye,
And neither were the faces. Even so,
I see how wild the tameless landscape is,
And then how bland the village, and I sigh,
Lamenting a sad beauty that was never mine.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Plastic Horses

Some people, you drop a word in them like a coin,
And they whir into life like a plastic horse,
Surging and tinkling, bright with festive joy.

Other people are collection boxes.
No matter how many coins you cram in there,
You never get a song out of them,
Or anything but a begrudging clank.

You never know which is which, of course,
Until your coin is already spent.
You have to be resigned to lose a few
Or even a few thousand, in the hope
That it will all be worth it when the horse 
Springs into motion; and, of course, it will.

Yeats's Grave

He lies where he determined to,
Rescued from the hospitable French 
Who would have gladly kept his bones –
Those long white poet's bones of his –
And claimed him, as their wine-warm shores
Have claimed so many Irish men.

This one came home, though –
To the home of his child's heart,
Where fairies whispered from the mountaintop
And came by night to kindle him in dreams.

This one came home, to say a few last words,
In the form of a carving on a plain stone.
"Horseman," says the stone, "pass by,"
And speaks of the virtue of a cold eye –
But what stone-graven heart could be 
Cold in the grip of the reverie
That comes when facing a hero's tomb?
And what fool horse would dare presume 
To pass this dear and sainted place
With no pause of thanks to the human race?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Named World

Every place has a name here.
They have names for the places between places
And the places between those.
When you've been on the same small island
For six thousand years or whatever,
You get around to naming almost everything
Like an overachieving Adam.

Thus, every hill and stream and mossy pond
Carries the ancestral burden of a name,
And some dark memory to go with it,
However faded by the feckless years.

There's something pagan about all of this
(Since having a name is like having a soul),
But that need not surprise us; after all,
This is the land where Patrick - wily man! -
Instead of screaming "All your gods are lies!"
Said "All your gods are my god, and this place
That you call holy, I hold holy too."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


They have it all in Connemara –
Bogs and ocean and stacks of turf;
The wind sweeping over the headland;
The howl of the ancient surf.

They've got the best in Connemara:
The best of the ruined barns,
The best of the pitted landscape
And the bone-chilling fireside yarns.

They live a dream in Connemara –
A dream that holds them in thrall.
What they don't have in Connemara
Is not worth having at all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

At Joe Watty's

The ticket-taker from the ferry
Bellied up to the rail of the stage
And sang, without preamble,
Songs of yearning and the sea.

His beard bristled; he was very still.
The whole bar went quiet to hear him
Except for one loud mother
Who didn't catch the hint.

But he sang on, the old sailor,
Stoic and debonair,
While behind him the official entertainment
Smiled like the face of God.

Scratch an Irishman and he'll bleed music –
Ancient and sad, and full of much-tilled earth,
Or full of the rolling of the unsatisfied sea
Which tosses the lonely ferry like a child's toy.