'Will You Taste Some Irishness?' II (2003)

Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 02:20 pm
Will You Taste Some Irishness? II
( 2003)

Will you taste some Irishness
in lieu of greenish beer?
Please savor sorrow, pain and pride
and ancient flavors queer,

A trace of moon, and mist and sea,
A poteen brewed of tears,
Of turf and toil, and hate and strife,
And love of country fierce.

Clarke and Durcan, Kavanaugh,
Are offered here to you,
Fallon, Boland, Hartigan,
O'Grady, Montague.

Drink, long and deep of Irishness
it seeks the deepest part,
it curls around your human-ness
and seeps into your heart.
( jjorge)

Last year I started an abuzz thread on Irish poetry. As I said then: "Sometimes it seems that around St. Patrick's Day the glories of Ireland are smothered in an avalanche (or tidal wave, as it were) of green beer and cartoon leprechauns."

The thread was very successful and so I have decided to make an annual pre-emptive strike on cardboard leprechauns. (go ahead and drink the green beer if you must!)

Every day from now through St. Patrick's Day I'll be posting at least one poem by an Irish poet. The thread will be created on both A2K and Abuzz.

Last year we had a nice conversation and numerous others posted poems, songs, prayers etc. by Irish authors. I hope we can do the same again this year.


In the interests of honesty and full disclosure I want to say that:

I am Irish descent on my father's side only
I have not yet been to Ireland although I hope to visit this year or next.
I am not an academic, or an expert on Irish poetry. (or any other kind)
I am, at best, a novice or would-be poet.

Today's Poem:

'A Grafted Tongue'

bloodied, the severed
head now chokes to
speak another tongue -

As in
a long suppressed dream,
some stuttering garb -
led ordeal of my own)

An Irish
child weeps at school
repeating its English.
After each mistake

The master
gouges another mark
on the tally stick
hung about its neck

Like a bell
on a cow, a hobble
on a straying goat.
To slur and stumble

In shame
the altered syllables
of your own name:
to stray sadly home

And find
the turf-cured width
of your parents' hearth
growing slowly alien:

In cabin
and field, they still
speak the old tongue.
You may greet no one.

To grow
a second tongue, as
harsh a humiliation
as twice to be born.

Decades later
that child's grandchild's
speech stumbles over lost
syllables of an old order.

(John Montague)

For more on John Montague go to:
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Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 08:07 pm
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, by T.S. Eliot

The Song of the Jellicles

The Song of the Jellicles
Jellicle Cats come out tonight,
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright--
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.
Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.
Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.
Jellicle Cats develop slowly,
Jellicle Cats are not too big;
Jellicle Cats are roly-poly,
They know how to dance a gavotte and a jig.
Until the Jellicle Moon appears
They make their toilette and take their repose:
Jellicles wash behind their ears,
Jellicles dry between their toes.
Jellicle Cats are white and black,
Jellicle Cats are of moderate size;
Jellicles jump like a jumping-jack,
Jellicle Cats have moonlit eyes.
They're quiet enough in the morning hours,
They're quiet enough in the afternoon,
Reserving their terpsichorean powers
To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon.
Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats (as I said) are small;
If it happens to be a stormy night
They will practise a caper or two in the hall.
If it happens the sun is shining bright
You would say they had nothing to do at all:
They are resting and saving themselves to be right
For the Jellicle Moon and the Jellicle Ball
0 Replies
Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 08:14 pm
Hi Joanne

Thanks for posting.

Just for today we'll pretend that TS Eliot was Irish! Very Happy
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Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 08:17 pm
Here's Nobel prize laureate Seamus Heaney:


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.
(Seamus Heaney)

For more on Seamus Heaney go to:

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Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 08:59 pm
T.S. Eliot is not Irish, yikes. I thought he was, sorry.
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Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 09:11 pm

'We were killing pigs when the
Yanks arrived.
A Tuesday morning, sunlight
and gutter-blood Outside the slaughter house.
From the main road
They would have heard the screaming,
Then heard it stop and had a view of us
In our gloves and aprons coming
down the hill.
Two lines of them, guns on their
shoulders, marching.
Armoured cars and tanks and open jeeps.
Sunburnt hands and arms.
Unnamed, in step,
Hosting for Normandy.
Not that we knew then
Where they were headed, standing
there like youngsters
As they tossed us gum and tubes of coloured sweets.'

Seamus Heaney

Irish poets and writers protest war
0 Replies
Joe Nation
Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 09:27 pm
When I heard one of my uncles recite this poem out loud, it gave me my first set of chills. I was six. I thought for years that he had written it, then I stumbled on it again in a book by W. B. Yeats.
Read it out loud.... especially on a dark, misty night..... Joe

The Host of the Air

O'Driscoll drove with a song
The wild duck and the drake
From the tall and the tufted reeds
Of the drear Hart Lake.

And he saw how the reeds grew dark
At the coming of night-tide,
And dreamed of the long dim hair
Of Bridget his bride.

He heard while he sang and dreamed
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.

And he saw young men and young girls
Who danced on a level place,
And Bridget his bride among them,
With a sad and a gay face.

The dancers crowded about him
And many a sweet thing said,
And a young man brought him red wine
And a young girl white bread.

But Bridget drew him by the sleeve
Away from the merry bands,
To old men playing at cards
With a twinkling of ancient hands.

The bread and the wine had a doom,
For these were the host of the air;
He sat and played in a dream
Of her long dim hair.

He played with the merry old men
And thought not of evil chance,
Until one bore Bridget his bride
Away from the merry dance.

He bore her away in his arms,
The handsomest young man there,
And his neck and his breast and his arms
Were drowned in her long dim hair.

O'Driscoll scattered the cards
And out of his dream awoke:
Old men and young men and young girls
Were gone like a drifting smoke;

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.
0 Replies
Reply Mon 17 Feb, 2003 10:20 pm
Joe Nation

I love 'The Host of The Air'. I heard it long before I ever read it.

Back in the Seventies the Clancy Brothers included it on one of their cassettes.
(remember when we used to buy music on audiocasettes?)

I don't know which Clancy recited it but it was beautifully done.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 10:08 am

I had read in some biographical piece on Heaney that U.S. troops trained and prepared for Normandy in the countryside near his boyhood home. I wasn't aware that he had written about them though, until you posted that poem.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 10:13 am
For today:

'Going Home to Mayo, Winter, 1949'

Leaving behind us the alien, foreign city of Dublin
My father drove through the night in an old Ford Anglia,
His five-year-old son in the seat beside him,
The rexine seat of red leatherette,
And a yellow moon peered in through the windscreen.
'Daddy, Daddy,' I cried, 'Pass out the moon,'
But no matter how hard he drove he could not pass out the moon.
Each town we passed through was another milestone
And their names were magic passwords into eternity:
Kilcock, Kinnegad, Strokestown, Elphin,
Tarmonbarry, Tulsk, Ballaghaderreen, Ballavarry;
Now we were in Mayo and the next stop was Turlough,
The village of Turlough in the heartland of Mayo,
And my father's mother's house, all oil-lamps and women,
And my bedroom over the public bar below,
And in the morning cattle-cries and cock-crows:
Life's seemingly seamless garment gorgeously rent
By their screeches and bellowings. And in the evenings
I walked with my father in the high grass down by the river
Talking with him - an unheard-of thing in the city.

But home was not home and the moon could be no more outflanked
Than the daylight nightmare of Dublin city:
Back down along the canal we chugged into the city
And each lock-gate tolled our mutual doom;
And railings and palings and asphalt and traffic-lights,
And blocks after blocks of so-called 'new' tenements -
Thousands of crosses of loneliness planted
In the narrowing grave of the life of the father;
In the wide, wide cemetery of the boy's childhood.
(Paul Durcan))

For more on Paul Durcan go to:
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Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 01:46 pm

O, Father dear, I ofttimes heard you talk of Erin's Isle,
Her valleys green, her lofty scene, her mountains rude and wild;
You said it was a pleasant place wherein a prince might dwell,
Why have you then forsaken her, the reason to me tell?

My son, I loved our native land with energy and pride
Until a blight fell on the land and sheep and cattle died,
The rents and taxes were to pay, I could not them redeem,
And that's the cruel reason why I left Old Skibbereen.

It's well I do remember on a bleak November's day,
The landlord and his agent came to drive us all away;
He set my house on fire with his demon yellow spleen
And that's another reason why I left Old Skibbereen.

Your mother, too, God rest her soul, lay on the snowy ground,
She fainted in her anguish of the desolation round.
She never rose, but went her way from life to death's long dream,
And found a quiet grave, my boy, in lovely Skibbereen.

It's well I do remember the year of forty-eight,
When we arose with Erin's boys to fight against our fate;
I was hunted through the mountains as a traitor to the Queen,
And that's another reason that I left Old Skibbereen.

Oh father dear, the day will come when vengeance loud will call
And we'll arise with Erin's boys and rally one and all,
I'll be tbe man to lead the van, beneath our flag of green,
And loud and high we'll raise the cry," Revenge for Skibbereen!"
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Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 03:27 pm
jjorge, Your poem is excellent. What a fantastic lead-in to your Irish stew Smile

I shall return with a poem/song that I never quite understood and with a question or two of the others posted here.
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Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 06:16 pm

I went out to the hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped a berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossoms in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

.... W.B. Yeats
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Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 07:24 pm
The Two Trees

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the winged sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care;
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night receives,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves.
For all thinks turn to bareness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness,
Made when God slept in times of old.
There, through the broken branches, go
The ravens of unresting thought;
Flying, crying, to and fro,
Cruel claw and hungry throat,
Or else they stand and sniff the wind,
And shake their ragged wings: alas!
Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:
Gaze no more in the bitter glass.
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the winged sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

W. B Yeats
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Reply Tue 18 Feb, 2003 07:50 pm
I love youse guys. (Ta, MDD)

My favourite is not long.

" Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy"....W B Yeats

I have spent these few years off and on in that Green Land. Sometimes I think they have known everything before any one of us ever came on the scene.

And Seamus Heaney is somethin' else...
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 01:53 am

Thanks for posting 'Skibbeen'. I'd never seen it before.
There are so many poems, stories, and songs about the cruelties and injustices that the Irish endured for centuries!

Glad you liked my little 'poemecito'.*

Yeats was the greatest!

Another Yeats man eh?
'The Two Trees' is lovely. I don't recall ever reading it before.

I love that Yeats quotation.

* This word may not exist
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 02:01 am
For Wednesday Feruary 19, 2003:

'Céilí '

If there was a house with three girls in it,
It only took three boys to make a dance.
You'd see a glimmer where McKeown's once was
And follow it till it became a house.
But maybe they'd have gone on, up the hill
To Loughran's, or made across the grazing,
Somewhere else. All those twistings and turnings,
Crossroads and dirt roads and skittery lanes:
You'd be glad to get in from the dark.

And when you did get in, there'd be a power
Of poteen. A big tin creamery churn,
A ladle, those mugs with blue and white bars.
Oh, good and clear like the best of water.
The music would start up. This one ould boy
would sit by the fire and rosin away,
Sawing and sawing till it fell like snow.
That poteen was quare stuff. At the end of
The night you might be fiddling with no bow.

When everyone was ready, out would come
The tin of Tate and Lyle's Golden Syrup,
A spoon or a knife, a big farl of bread.
Some of those same boys wouldn't bother with
The way you were supposed to screw it up.
There might be courting going on outside,
Whisperings and cacklings in the barnyard;
A spider thread of gold-thin syrup
Trailed out across the glowing kitchen tiles
Into the night of promises, or broken promises.
(Ciaran Carson)

For more on Ciaran Carson go to:
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 05:02 am

Some of the history of Ireland is so sad - and does lend itself to poetic telling. And, of course, it's all tied up with the history of Australia, and my own family's history.

Has anyone seen Tommy lately - he has some wonderful poetry in his head, and at hand!
0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 05:41 am
Sure 'n that Céilí 's a foine pome, jjorge. I can relate ... not so much for the cloggin' and the courtin' and the treacle, but many's the toime I foind meself fiddlin' without a bow, poteen or no.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 05:52 am
deb! one of my mostest favouritest poems!
0 Replies

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