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Poetry Magnum Opus

Black '47


dedalus

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Awakening in the shattered gloom

of a damp unhealthy basement room

in London, 1847. Outside, the city

moils and toils in its busy day

of unpleasant smells, shouts and cries,

and sings the song of a possible future

for the working poor. But in my native Donegal,

as in most of Ireland, starvation reigns

and there is no hope or chance at all.

 

We were called a careless, indigent people,

living on tiny plots of potatoes

and these the famine have destroyed,

and since we have no second way, no alternative,

we died in our cabins, on the land, in droves.

And the British government, so very quick

to assert its power in times of rebellion,

did nothing. All trust was thus dissolved

and the final rebellion followed.

 

The moment the very name of Ireland is mentioned, the English seem to bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and common sense, and to act with the barbarity of tyrants, and the fatuity of idiots.

(Sydney Smith :3 June 1771 - 22 February 1845)

 

What the devil do we care about you or your black potatoes? It was not us that made them black. You will get two days to pay the rent, and if you don’t you know the consequences. (Bailiff’s reply to tenants, quoted in the Freeman’s Journal, April 1846).

 

Sheila and Mary, my sisters, have sailed to America,

where in spite of the dangers I know they’ll arrive

and have ten children apiece with Irish husbands,

and turn the East Coast green. And so, here am I,

alone in smoky London, struggling so very very hard

with the language among the pleasant giggling girls,

and getting work for cash from day to day,

feeling distant, Irish, betrayed and angry.

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

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I've just read Joseph O' Connor's "Star Of The Sea" which is set in this bleak time-- a book thoroughly well researched and written, as is your excellent poem. It offers an extensive insight to historical injustices, political and social attitudes.. that in retrospect have affected our modern world through countless grim lives of ordinary people; particularly those left "feeling distant, Irish, betrayed and angry." I envy your diligence. G

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

I have to agree with Benjamin sentiments above completely especial since he wrote something to the effects along the same reasoning I was going to joy down, but much more gracefully than I myself could have. Brendan you wrote some beautiful verse my friend about calamities of the past. The narrator's words clips my heart-strings as I read along reading up on the history of that time period in Ireland. I know here in the states reading about how different the poor Irish immigrants were in the United States and I really wonder how the United States Civil War would have fared if not for the cost that Irishmen gave in blood for the Union to defeat the South. Your words really speak to me Brendan of an age forgotten by most and especially to the many ignorant here in the States. Certainly a time capsule piece and well written be it also. Thank you for sharing my poet friend. Really, really enjoyed and I learned something too.

 

victor

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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government, so very quick

to assert its power in times of rebellion,

did nothing

 

Timeless insight.

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Worthy poems of history make the reader part of the culture of the times. This one makes me agonize for the plight brought on by the blight, as well as the everlasting contempt from the English. Look who's talking. Irish here were treated almost as badly as our own blacks. And just think, the blight came through the US to Ireland. This is the kind of history that truly educates. Thank you, I think.

Paco

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Thanks, lads. I have another poem about the Irish (on both sides) in the American civil war. It's good in parts, but sketchy in others. Hang on to your hats and watch this space!!

 

All the best,

Bren

 

(known to Paco as 'The Gnome' for some godawful half-baked Virginia reason, probably associated with a notion of leprechauns, who were and still are the spirits of the ancient Tuatha de Danaan, a people who went underground after their defeat by the Milesians (I think): anyway, long long before the arrival of the Celts in waves, ca. 800-550 BC).

 

Don't get me started on ancient clan history!

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

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So...do you still sleep underground? As for the 'gnome,' think Travelocity. ;) Looking forward to your latest history lesson, you being an 'original source.'

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