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dedalus

In a Free State (1988)

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dedalus

Returning

 

Greed for the gold of strangers

feeds on this ancient slant-lit land, obscures

hard truths, trades on illusions, lavishes

praise on the safely dead.

In our shared complicity lies our shame:

Poor Emmet, here’s your epitaph.

 

I.

 

A straggle of houses, a looming church,

an empty street with breeze-blown signs;

here in the rural heart of Ireland,

wild and wet and windswept,

see the locals dine on spuds and bacon,

take a last quick look at the form sheet,

and attack the cabbage.

By night, by God, in smoke-filled pubs,

they sing the old and wild songs yet,

still for themselves, and not for the tourists

the haunting airs of the crossroads.

 

And in other pubs, not a score of miles

across these dark and silent fields,

the same old songs rise up in the night

with the shots and sudden shouts of command

of an alien army in the streets.

There it's the old and cruel Ireland,

where weapons take the place of words,

where the past can still breed new fanatics,

new sorrows … new anger … new graves.

 

 

II.

 

Are tales still told by the fireside,

merry eyes in weathered gentle faces,

the caps pulled down, the drinks on the hob,

the smell of the slowly burning turf?

No more, it seems, with the cars and the telly,

the satellite phones, the electric range;

but divil a change in the flow of the talk,

in the needling, cheerful banter,

and none in the love of the lilt of a song,

the expectant silence that greets a verse:

slaves are we still to the gods of language,

to the rush and the rhythm of eloquent words

that sweep all things before.

 

Flow over them with your waves and with your waters,

Mananaan, Mananaan MacLir!

 

Slipping out the door from Sunday Mass

as the priest begins his sermon:

a smoke on the steps, a chat with the lads,

then back to the mumble of responses,

to the blend of incense and damp clothing.

Faith of our fathers, thirsty work,

but soon the pubs will open.

(The pubs will always soon be open!)

And soft the same familiar rain

will fall on the fields of vivid green,

on the grey, untidy streets.

 

 

III.

 

At the door of T.P Flanagan’s

the smell of the porter would fell a horse:

‘Sure, welcome home, and what'll ye have?’

says the man himself behind the bar,

when wrapped around the remains of a pint,

an oul' fella ups from the corner:

‘This counthry's gone to hell in a handcart!

(smiles of delight run around the room)

‘I'd leave meself only the age that's in it’.

From the bar: ‘True for you, John Joe!

‘Now hould yer whisht and have another’.

 

The pints, unbidden, line up on the bar.

If a man won't drink he should wear a badge,

in a decent, sensible Irish way;

for an offer spurned is a terrible thing,

where there's little forgiven, even less forgotten.

‘God's curse on the IRA! ‘

(the oul' fella still in the corner)

‘Tis well for them Yanks to be sending them money,

‘Tis our lads do the dying’.

Our lads. Not me. And not these others,

gone silent now, musing

on the wreck of a tribal dream

defiled by murder.

 

Envoi:

 

On the cloud-touched cliffs of Dun Aengus,

see the woman old and lonely as she sits upon the lea,

white-haired, gazing on the great wide ocean.

O Cathleen, where is thy beauty now?

the ivory skin, the raven hair,

the lips like blood upon the snow?

Turn again those fine deep eyes,

turn once again those fearless eyes

and look upon this land!

 

____________________________________

 

Notes:

 

(I changed the original title --"Homecoming" aka "The Return" -- out of deference to JoelJosol.)

 

1."Emmet" - Robert Emmet, the "Darling of Erin" who was publicly hung drawn and quartered after a failed uprising in Dublin in 1803. At his trial he declared, "When my country takes her rightful place among the nations of the world, then, and only then, let my epitaph be written."

 

2. Mananaan MacLir - the Celtic god of the sea.

 

3. "hould yer whisht" - hold your breath; stop talking.

 

4. Dun Aengus - a prehistoric stone fort perched on a cliff edge in the Aran Islands, a traditional Gaelic-speaking island group lying off the west coast.

 

5. Cathleen - Cathleen ni Houlihan, a traditional representation of the soul of Ireland as a very old (and sometimes young and beautiful) woman. The land is perceived as feminine and its name in Irish, Éire, is derived from the goddess Ériu.


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Tinker

Hi dedalus, This is an modern day Aisling, the first example I have read and understood of this genre and it is wonderful! Would you mind if I linked this to my article Aisling on the poetic genre ?

 

~~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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dedalus

This poetry class is making you dangerous, Tink!! icon_wink.gif

 

The envoi to the poem -- nothing more than a tail-end commentary -- does have a link with the Aisling form as Egan O Rahilly himself might have acknowledged, whereas the previous three sections are more or less a snapshot of Ireland as I found it on an extended visit home during the summer of 1987. The description doesn't quite fit the general form of a lament for the reduced state of the nation since it is in no way as bleak and despairing as the traditional form: what harm if people have better homes, food to eat, satellite phones (pre-cellphone days), cars and televisions ... as long as they don't turn their back on the need to expel the invader and restore Irish freedom? Well, there wasn't much enthusiasm for the IRA in the Irish Republic either then or now and the poem reflects that ambiguity. Freedom in our own part of the island was considered good enough. I doubt seriously whether O Rahilly or Emmet or the demanding Cathleen could have accepted that. I wasn't too sure about it myself. All this occurred ten years before the Good Friday Agreement when a difficult but workable compromise was hammered out with regard to the North. Nobody but the nutcases (Real IRA, Continuity IRA, the Super-Loyalists) wants to go back to the Bad Old Days ... and that's for damn sure!!

 

Taking into account the caveats expressed above (poetical as well as political) you are very welcome to make use of this poem in your article.

 

Slán anois,

dedalus

 

PS - If you have the time (which, considering your studies and assignments, I doubt!) check out O Rahilly's most famous poem, Ghile na Gile, (Brightness upon brightness) trans. by Thomas Kinsella. I've spent an hour looking for it on Google and they've sent me every which way except where I wanted to go!! The Irish is stunningly beautiful ... and the English (ahem) is not that bad!

 

PPS - No, we don't want a Stuart Restoration as did the Aisling poets of the late 17th-early 18th centuries. In fact, the last of the royal Stuarts, James II, the chap who lost the Battle of the Boyne (1690) is still known in Ireland as "Seamus the Shit". He fled to Dublin complaining that 'the Irish had run away'. 'Well, Your Majesty', said one of the ladies (probably one of the Talbots of Malahide, who lost 14 male relatives on the field), 'you did well to get back before any of them!'


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Tinker

Thank you dedalus, icon_biggrin.png No the poetry class is on meter not poetic genre or verse form. I have had a passion for learning about the 600 plus verse forms and genres for almost 5 years now. I research, write a brief history and simple "how to" if it calls for structured meter or rhyme and I try to provide an example poem. My goal is to write an example poem of my own for most of the verse eventually. I have friends who sometimes take on the task for the fun of it. You might be interested in the Irish verse form section further down on the index page of this forum. (but if you find I erred, let me know and I will dig deeper and fix it) It is so interesting to me. I don't ride horses anymore, so this is how I relax now that I am old.

 

No I didn't write an Aisling, :shock:I've never been to Ireland and the Aisling is intrinsically connected to the history of Ireland, how can I capture its soul if I have never been there... but I found a translation of the Black Rose and now I have your poem.

 

I know that technically only the envoi is the Aisling, but in today's world as you say "we don't want a Stuart Restoration". I think the first part does apply too, it does touch on political conditions of the day and it displays an understanding and a love for the land. This is how verse forms and genres develop and stay alive. They adapt to the time, place and the who that writes them.

 

I will go looking for your Ghile na Gile tomorrow. Thanks for the suggestion.

 

~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Lake

Konnichi Wa, dedalus (repeat after you),

 

So glad to see you around here. I enjoy reading your poems/epics, though I didn't comment on everyone, but I read most of your stuffs. The content in your poem is always so rich, full of meat, no fat. And it sings.

 

I don't know much about Ireland, so it's fun to get to know it through well written poems from you. And if, if one day, I can come up with my own opinion about the country, it must've been influenced by your point of views. Right now, I just sit and enjoy reading your poems.

 

Best,

 

Lake

 

PS: Tinker, why there's this much empty space in your reply? And Aisling!

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Tinker

Sorry I have a new computer (I got it yesterday, it is so beautiful and very fast ) and it is very sensitive.... I am still adjusting and trying to get all of my old settings in place. I have fixed the white space. I must have held my finger on a key too long or something...

 

 

~~tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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dedalus

Lucky young Tink ... new computer!! This old thing I'm typing on reminds me of the Stone Age. I've just completed a trans of Roisín Dubh which might offend the purists, never mind the Mangan cult.

 

I'll repost it here --

 

 

 

d.


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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tonyv

This masterpiece reads like an epic. I admire and respect your willingness and ability to take a critical look at your culture and homeland. I enjoyed the "firsthand" account. Thanks for the footnotes, too; they always come in handy.

 

I'm still hoping to finally get the audio version on the site. I had not considered the possibility that a long poem might be over the file size limit for an email attachment. A free program I was using with my sister to share very large files is called PANDO. She even sent me a movie using the program, so I'm sure it would work for the poem. Download it and give it a try!

 

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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waxwings

Though I am not a fancier of long poems and do not know enough of Eire and its history, this feels exactly right and is well written to boot of being enjoyable for its content and sound.

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tonyv

Your reading of this poem (found in the Audio archive) rocks, Brendan! I sent you a PM with some information.

 

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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tonyv

I'm listening to this one over and over while reading along ... It's like I'm learning, understanding even, by absorbing a plethora of complexities about a culture which would be impossible to adequately convey in any other literary work (short of a tome). I want to quote parts, but the whole thing is perfect. Still, I must ... A few parts that are especially memorable --

dedalus wrote:

see the locals dine on spuds and bacon,

take a last quick look at the form sheet,

and attack the cabbage ....

 

and none in the love of the lilt of a song,

the expectant silence that greets a verse:

slaves are we still to the gods of language,

to the rush and the rhythm of eloquent words

that sweep all things before

.... and most poignantly, this:

dedalus wrote:

 

‘Tis our lads do the dying’.

Our lads. Not me. And not these others ...

The title itself resonates within me: In a Free State (1988). I was eighteen in 1988, and I remember certain things about it. I like what you did with the title, and how you put "Returning" underneath it. The poem and its title transport me.

 

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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badger11

Mesmerising read, particularly enjoyed the Part III when the accent was 'unleashed'.

 

badge

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dedalus

Thanks, fellas. I spent a long time working on this one trying to get it right and I'm reasonably satisfied with it now. This audio linking is fun ... I think I'll be doing more of it once I work out some of the technical glitches!

 

Cheers, Brendan


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Aleksandra

Brendan, the poem is amazing. The reading of yours much more. When I heard how you read this poem, how you interpretated, it shocked me. It sounds brilliant. The poem has a life.

 

This part:

Our lads. Not me. And not these others,

gone silent now, musing

on the wreck of a tribal dream

defiled by murder.

 

... it's perfect.

 

 

Keep working. It's my pleasure to read and LISTEN your work.

 

Thanks a lot.

 

Aleksandra


The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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dedalus

Kind words, Aleksandra ... it was a difficult poem to write, but after it was written, the spoken version came easy.

-- Brendan


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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RHommel

I realize this is an old post, but I'm new here and just poking about. I found this through the audio link section. I could listen to it all day long... thank you. It's lovely.

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