24 March 2017

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- Gillian Allnutt

22 March 2017


Once alien here my fathers built their house,
claimed, drained, and gave the land the shapes of use,
and for their urgent labour grudged no more
than shuffled pennies from the hoarded store
of well rubbed words that had left their overtones
in the ripe England of the mounded downs.

The sullen Irish limping to the hills
bore with them the enchantments and the spells
that in the clans’ free days hung gay and rich
on every twig of every thorny hedge,
and gave the rain-pocked stone a meaning past
the blurred engraving of the fibrous frost.

So I, because of all the buried men
in Ulster clay, because of rock and glen
and mist and cloud and quality of air
as native in my thought as any here,
who now would seek a native mode to tell
our stubborn wisdom individual,
yet lacking skill in either scale of song,
the graver English, lyric Irish tongue,
must let this rich earth so enhance the blood
with steady pulse where now is plunging mood
till thought and image may, identified,
find easy voice to utter each aright.

- John Hewitt

21 March 2017


No. It's an impudent falsehood.  Men did not
Invariably think the newer way
Prosaic, mad, inelegant, or what not.

Was the first pointed arch esteemed a blot
Upon the church?  Did anybody say
How modern and how ugly?  They did not.

Plate-armour, or windows glazed, or verse fire-hot
With rhymes from France, or spices from Cathay,
Were these at first a horror?  They were not.

If, then, our present arts, laws, houses, food
All set us hankering after yesterday,
Need this be only an archaising mood?

Why, any man whose purse has been let blood
By sharpers, when he finds all drained away
Must compare how he stands with how he stood.

If a quack doctor's breezy ineptitude
Has cost me a leg, must I forget straightaway
All that I can't do now, all that I could?

So, when our guides unanimously decry
The backward glance, I think we can guess why.

C. S. Lewis

18 March 2017


Swifts do not sing: 
what they do well 
is sleep on the wing,
moving always higher and higher
in their almost entirely
aerial existence, alighting
only to nest, lay eggs,
rear their young and then
back to the airways
to teach them there
the art of high-speed darting
with narrow swept-back wings
and streamlined bodies:
when swifts descend
they cannot perch, they cling
by hook-shaped toes
to walls and so crawl
into sheltered cavities, into gaps
in eaves and church towers
where they can nest. Summer visitors
they seem always about to leave
and when they finally do
scream in their hundreds
that the time is now,
that the south awaits,
that he who procrastinates
has only the cold to explore
for those succulent insects
who are no longer there.

-Charles Tomlinson

17 March 2017


Oh! Paddy, dear, and did you hear
The news that's going round,
The shamrock is forbid by law
To grow on Irish ground.
Saint Patrick's Day no more we'll keep
His color can't be seen
For there's a bloody law agin'
The wearing of the green.

I met with Napper Tandy
And he took me by the hand
And he said "How's poor old Ireland?
And how does she stand?"
She's the most distressful country
That ever you have seen,
They're hanging men and women there
For wearing of the green.

Then since the color we must wear
Is England's cruel red
Sure Ireland's sons will n'er forget
The blood that they have shed.
You may take the shamrock from your hat
And cast it on the sod,
But 'twill take root and flourish still
Tho' underfoot 'tis trod.

When the law can stop the blades of grass
From growing as they grow,
And when the leaves in summer time
Their verdure dare not show,
Then I will change the color
I wear in my caubeen,
But till that day I'll stick for aye
To wearing of the green.

But if at last our color should
Be torn from Ireland's heart,
Her sons with shame and sorrow
From the dear old sod will part.
I've heard a whisper of a country
That lies beyond the sea,
Where rich and poor stand equal
In the light of freedom's day.

Oh, Erin! Must we leave you,
Driven by the tyrant's hand?
Must we ask a mother's welcome
From a strange but happy land?
Where the cruel cross of England's thralldom
Never shall be seen
And where in peace we'll live and die
A-wearing of the green.

 - version by Dion Boucicault (1820-1890)

16 March 2017


Suddenly a stone chirped
Bella's goodness,
The numbers
Of Bella's beginning and end.
It sang like a harp, the stone!

James-William of Ness
Put a shilling
In the dusty palm of the carver,
Fifty years since.

Wind, snow, sun grainings.

The stone's a whisper now.
The stone will be silence.

- George Mackay Brown

15 March 2017


We meet only to part,
Coming and going like white clouds,
Leaving traces so faint
Hardly a soul notices.

- Ryƍkan

(translated by John Stevens)