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Tag: Poems of the Irish People (Page 1 of 2)


Expatriate – to drive (a person) from his native land; to withdraw (oneself) from one’s native land; to renounce the rights of citizenship where one was born, and become a citizen of another country

“Some of the most heartfelt poems in this book are written from the viewpoint of expatriates or exiles longing for their native land.”

Poems of the Irish People, introduction, printed 2016

Lament for the Poets: 1916, by Francis Ledwidge

I heard the Poor Old Woman say:
"At break of day the fowler came, 
And took my blackbirds from their songs
Who loved me well thro' shame and blame.

"No more from lovely distances
Their songs shall bless me mile by mile,
Nor to white Ashbourne call me down
To wear my crown another while.

"With bended flowers the angels mark
For the skylark the place they lie,
From there its little family
Shall dip their wings first in the sky.

"And when the first surprise of flight
Sweet songs excite, from the far dawn
Shall there come blackbirds loud with love,
Sweet echoes of the singers gone.

"But in the lonely hush of eve
Weeping I grieve the silent bills."
I heard the Poor Old Woman say
In Derry of the little hills.

("Lament for the Poets: 1916", by Francis Ledwidge, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

From My Library: Poems of the Irish People

This little book of Irish poems has been really fun to read. I started it on a sick day when I wanted something simple to read, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a small, pocket-sized book with 65 poems by about forty-six authors named authors, 2 translators, and a few anonymous authors. Most of the authors I hadn’t heard of, but you may recognize William Butler Yeats among the names. Perhaps some of these authors only wrote a handful of poems. I’m glad they were included in this little volume. Here is the list of features authors (including links to the poems I posted).

  • Anonymous
  • Cecil Frances Alexander
  • William Allingham
  • Edmund John Armstrong
  • John Banim
  • Ethna Carbery
  • William Carleton
  • John Keegan Casey
  • Andrew Cherry
  • Nora Chesson
  • Luke Aylmer Conolly
  • Thomas Osborne Davis
  • Aubrey de Vere
  • William Drennan
  • Samuel Ferguson
  • Ellen Forrester
  • Alice Furlong
  • Eva Gore-Booth
  • Alfred Percival Graves
  • Stephen Lucius Gwyn
  • Katharine Tynan Hinkson
  • Nora Hopper
  • John Kells Ingram
  • Thomas Caulfield Irwin
  • James Joyce
  • Rose Kavanagh
  • Carles Joseph Kickham
  • William Larminie
  • Emily Lawless
  • Francis Ledwidge
  • Samuel Lover
  • Francis Sylvester Mahoney
  • Thomas D’Arcy McGee
  • Thomas Moore
  • Alice Mulligan
  • Ellen O’Leary
  • James Orr
  • Seems O’Sullivan
  • George Nugent Reynolds
  • T.W. Rolleston
  • Dora Sigerson Shorter
  • John Millington Synge
  • John Todhunter
  • Edward Walsh
  • John Walsh
  • Lady Wilde
  • William Butler Yeats
  • translator Michael Cavanagh
  • translator James Clarence Mangan

The Lepracaum; or, Fairy Shoemaker, by William Allingham


Little Cowboy, what have you heard,
Up on the lonely rath's green mound?
Only the plaintive yellow bird
Sighing in sultry fields around,
Chary, chary, chary, chee-ee! - 
Only the grasshopper and the bee? - 
"Tip tap, rip-rap,
Scarlet leather, sewn together,
This will make a shoe.
Left, right, pull it tight;
Summer days are warm;
Underground in winter,
Laughing at the storm!"
Lay your ear close to the hill.
Do you not catch the tiny glamour,
Busy click of an elfin hammer,
Voice of the Lepracaun singing shrill
As he merrily plies his trade?
He's a span
And a quarter in height.
Get him in sight, hold him tight,
And you're a made


You watch your cattle the summer day, 
Sup on potatoes, sleep in the hay;
How would you like to roll in your carriage,
Look for a duchess's daughter in marriage?
Seize the Shoemaker - then you may!
"Big boots a-hunting,
Sandals in the hall,
White for a wedding-feast,
Pink for a ball.
This way, that way,
So we make a shoe;
Getting rich every stitch,
Nine-and-ninety treasure-crocks
This keen miser-fairy hath,
Hid in mountains, woods, and rocks,
Ruin and round-tow'r, cave and rath,
And where the cormorants build;
From times of old
Guarded by him;
Each of them fill'd
Full to the brim
With gold!


I caught him at work one day, myself,
In the castle-ditch, where foxglove grows, - 
A wrinkled, wizen'd, and bearded Elf,
Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
Silver buckles to his hose,
Leather apron - shoe in his lap - 
"Rip-rap, Tip-tap,
(A grasshopper on my cap!
Away the moth flew!)
Buskins for a fairy prince,
Brogues for his son, - 
Pay me well, pay me well,
When the job is done!"
The rogue was mine, beyond a doubt.
I stared at him; he stared at me;
"Servant, Sir!" "Humph!" says he,
And pull'd a snuff-box out.
He took a long pinch, look'd better pleased,
The queer little Lepracaun; 
Offer'd the box with a whimsical grace, - 
Pouf! he flung the dust in my face,
And, while I sneezed,
Was gone!

("The Lepracaum; or, Fairy Shoemaker" by William Allingham, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

This poem was better the second time I read it, so try it once more. Isn’t it cute? A story about a Lepracaun? It reads kind of like a conversation between two people, maybe one is older and wiser than the other, maybe a parent or grandparent speaking to a child? Whoever is telling the story builds the drama up, first describing the Lepracaun, then quoting it (as if they had heard it speak before). What gives more credibility to the story than describing the shoes the Lepracaun is making, as in the second stanza? Then for the best part: almost catching the Lepracaun. But he’s too clever. Poof! He throws snuff in the storyteller’s face and vanishes away. We may never know if the Lepracaun is real. He’s just too smart to get caught!

Song of the Ghost, by Alfred Percival Graves

When all were dreaming
But Pastheen Power,
A light came streaming
Beneath her bower:
A heavy foot
At her door delayed,
A heavy hand 
On the latch was laid.

"Now who dare venture,
At this dark hour,
Unbid to enter
My maiden bower?"
"Dear Pastheen, open
The door to me,
And your true lover
You'll surely see."

"My own true lover,
So tall and brave,
Lives exiled over 
The angry wave."
"Your true love's body 
Lies on the bier,
His faithful spirit
Is with you here."

"His look was cheerful,
His voice was gay;
Your speech is fearful,
Your face is grey;
And sad and sunken
Your eye of blue,
But Patrick, Patrick,
Alas! 'tis you!"

Ere dawn was breaking
She heard below
The two cocks shaking
Their wings to crow.
"Oh, hush you, hush you,
Both red and grey,
Or you will hurry
My love away.

"Oh hush your crowing,
Both grey and red,
Or he'll be going
To join the dead;
Or, cease from calling
His ghost to the mould,
And I'll come crowning
Your combs with gold."

When all were dreaming
But Pastheen Power,
A light went streaming 
From out her bower;
And on the morrow,
When they awoke,
They knew that sorrow
Her heart had broke.

("Song of the Ghost" by Alfred Percival Graves, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

This poem is both sweet and sad, something I noticed with a lot of the Irish poems. Poor Pastheen, whose love was exiled and forced from his home. When he is dead, his spirit comes to claim the bride he never got to marry. Then she dies of a broken heart. At least the lovers were able to be together for one night, even if it was in death.

Kathleen O’More, by George Nugget Reynolds

My love, still I think that I see her once more,
But, alas! she has left me her loss to deplore - 
My own little Kathleen, my poor little Kathleen, 
My Kathleen O'More!

Her hair glossy black, her eyes were dark blue,
Her colour still changing, her smiles ever new - 
So pretty was Kathleen, my sweet little Kathleen, 
My Kathleen O'More!

She milked the dun cow, that ne'er offered to stir;
Though wicked to all, it was gentle to her - 
So kind was my Kathleen, my poor little Kathleen, 
My Kathleen O'More!

She sat at the door one cold afternoon,
To hear the wind blow, and to gaze on the moon, - 
So pensive was Kathleen, my poor little Kathleen, 
My Kathleen O'More!

Cold was the night-breeze that sighed round her bower,
It chilled my poor Kathleen, she drooped from that hour,
And I lost my poor Kathleen, my own little Kathleen, 
My Kathleen O'More!

The bird of all birds that I love the best
Is the robin that in the churchyard builds his nest;
For he seems to watch Kathleen, hops lightly o'er Kathleen, 
My Kathleen O'More!

("Kathleen O'More, by George Nugget Reynolds, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

I’d like to think that Kathleen and Rory (from this poem) eventually got married, resulting in this lovely yet sad poem. Poor Rory, losing his sweet Kathleen.

Rory O’More, by Samuel Lover

Young Rory O'More courted Kathleen bán,
He was bold as a hawk, - and she soft as the dawn;
He wished in his heart pretty Kathleen to please,
And he thought the best way to do that was to tease;
"Now Rory, be aisy," sweet Kathleen would cry - 
Reproof on her lip, but a smile in her eye;
"With your tricks, I don't know, in troth, what I'm about;
Faith, you've teased me till I've put on my cloak inside out";
"Och, jewel," says Rory "that same is the way
You've thrated my heart for this many a day,
And 'til plased that I am, and why not, to be sure?
For 'tis all for good luck," says bold Rory O'More.

"Indeed, then," says Kathleen, "don't think of the like,
For I half gave a promise to soothering Mike;
The ground that I walk on he loves, I'll be bound."
"Faith," says Rory, "I'd rather love you than the ground."
"Now, Rory, I'll cry, if you don't let me go;
Sure I dhrame every night that I'm hating you so."
"Och," says Rory, "that same I'm delighted to hear,
For dhrames always go by contraries, my dear;
So, jewel, keep dhramin' that same till you die,
And bright mornin' will give dirty night the black lie;
And 'til plased that I am, and why not to be sure?
Since 'tis all for good luck," says bold Rory O'More.

"Arrah, Kathleen, my darlint, you've teased me enough,
And I've thrashed for your sake Danny Grimes and James Duff,
And I've made myself, drinkin' your health, quite a baste,
So I think, after that, I may talk to the priest."
Then Rory, the rogue, stole his arm round her neck,
So soft and so white, without freckle or speck,
And he looked in her eyes that were beaming with light.
And he kissed her sweet lips - don't you think he was right?
"Now, Rory, leave off, sir; you'll hug me no more;
That's eight times to-day that you've kissed me before."
"Then here goes another," says he, "to make sure,
For there's luck in odd numbers," says Rory O'More.

("Rory O'More", by Samuel Lover, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

It’s cute to imagine this scene, Rory and Kathleen teasing back and forth. My favorite line is when Rory tells Kathleen, “I’d rather love you than the ground.”

The Enchanted Island, by Luke Aylmer Conolly

To Rathlin's Isle I chanced to sail
When summer breezes softly blew,
And there I heard so sweet a tale
That oft I wished it could be true.

They said, at eve, when rude winds sleep,
And hushed is ev'ry turbid swell,
A mermaid rises from the deep 
And sweetly tunes her magic shell.

And while she plays, rock, dell, and cave,
In dying falls the sound retain,
As if some choral spirits gave
Their aid to swell her witching strain.

Then summoned by that dulcet note,
Uprising to th' admiring view,
A fairy island seems to float
With tints of many a gorgeous hue.

And glittering fanes, and lofty towers,
All on this fairy isle are seen:
And waving trees, and shady bowers,
With more than mortal verdure green.

And as it moves, the western sky
Glows with a thousand varying rays; 
And the calm sea, tinged with each dye,
Seems like a golden flood of haze.

They also say, if earth or stone 
From verdant Erin's hallowed land
Were on this magic island thrown,
For ever fixed it then would stand.

But when for this some little boat
In silence ventures from the shore,
The mermaid sinks - used is the note - 
The fairy isle is seen no more.

("The Enchanted Island", by Luke Aylmer Conolly, printed in Poems of the Irish People 2016)

Inishail, by Anonymous

I will go, and leave the streetways, 
And the world's wild, dinsome places,
With the hurrying, weary feetways,
And the folks of frenzied faces;
I will go through darkened spaces,
Morning glad, or starlight pale,
Through the rivers and the passes,
Till I find among the grasses,
Long sweet sleep among the grasses
Of the graves of Inishail.

Ah, ye daunt me, with your wonder,
And your toils about you lying,
O ye cities, with your thunder,
And your children in you, dying,
And I weary, ever sighing,
For the whisper of the West.
Where the glow and glamour meeting,
And the waves on long shores beating,
Are but echoes of the beating 
Of the life's blood in my breast.

I will plait a roof of rashes
For the low place of my sleeping,
Where the wistful water plashes,
Crooning, croodling, laughing, weeping,
And the winds from Cruachan sweeping
Join their gladness and their wail;
Till the angels' glory blinds me,
And the long sleep goes and finds me,
In the tangled grasses finds me,
By the graves of Inishail.

("Inishail", by Anonymous, printing in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

A Day in Ireland, translated by Michael Cavanagh

Four sharp scythes sweeping - in concert keeping
The rich-robed meadow's broad bosom o'er,
Four strong men mowing, with bright health glowing
A long green swath spread each man before; 
With sinews springing - my keep glad swinging,-
I strode - the fourth man in that blithe band; 
As stalk of corn that summer morn,
The scythe felt light in my stalwart hand.

Oh, King of Glory!  How changed my story,
Since in youth's noontide - long, long ago,
I mowed that meadow - no cloudy shadow
Between my brow and the hot sun's glow; 
Fair, girls raking the hay - and making
The fields resound with their laugh and glee,
Their voices ringing - than cuckoo's singing,
Made music sweeter by far to me.

Bees hover over the honied clover,
Then nestward hied upon wings of light;
No use in trying to trace them flying - 
One brief low hum and they're out of sight,
On downy thistle bright insects nestle,
Or flutter skyward on painted wings,
At times alighting on flowers inviting - 
'Twas pleasant watching the airy things.

From hazel bushes came songs of thrushes 
And blackbirds - sweeter than harper's lay;
While high in ether - with sun-tipped feather - 
The skylark warbled his anthem gay;
With throats distended, sweet linnets blendind
A thousand notes in one glorious chime,
Oh, King Eternal, 'twas life supernal
In beauteous Erin, that pleasant time.

("A Day in Ireland", translated by Michael Cavanagh, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)

I learned while reading these poems that Ireland is sometimes called Erin or Eiré, as though the poets are speaking of Ireland as a long lost love, beautiful and full of happy memories.

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