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Poetry Magnum Opus

The Temporary Exile of Conor MacArt


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Tá an Deoraíocht Sealadach na Conchubhair Mac Airt

An marc an uasal na hÉireann é

leagann an-bhreá ach neamhaird de bróga




It was either murder or the cold shoulder

when one crossed the path of Shane O Neill,

and thus I hurriedly hied me off to France

before the latter became the former


in the twenty-third year of my youth,

with angry bailiffs battering at the door

and my wife Eileen in floods of tears

as the cows and the pigs were driven away


and the children as well, not to be sold

or eaten, or not at once, sent to the cousins

who would happily hold this against me forever

in the way all strongood Irish families do.


It was a joy to speak Latin in France

with the learned men of Louvain and Grenoble,

to discourse on Ariosto and the Nine Commandments,

the fifth never having quite caught on in Ireland


and to have blood-red wine not made from nettles

and cheese not pressed from the udders of goats

as one slipped into one’s weary bed of an evening

warmed by the breasts of the live-in language teacher.


I made remarkable progress in their pouting tongue,

a slurry Latin spoken with fingers and shoulders,

and I rode in the Tuilleries with the haut de haut monde,

they on horses and me, barefoot, on a Connemara pony


for all the world to gaze and wonder and stroke their chins

so that even the King sent his young men to call on me

while that foul evil knave of an English Ambassador

eyed me coldly and sent over a cask of poisoned wine


which put an end to the language teacher, a pleasant wench,

voluble, affectionate, a wee bit too fond of the drop,

and so I decamped thereafter for the shores of Spain,

to cousin Rodrigo and our sunny vineyards in the South.



During the Middle Ages, Galway city in the West of Ireland was ruled by an oligarchy of fourteen merchant families (12 of Norman origin and 2 of Irish origin). These were the "tribes" of Galway. The city thrived on international trade, and in the Middle Ages, it was the principal Irish port for trade with Spain and France. The most famous reminder of those days is Ceann an Bhalla ("the head of the wall"), now known as the Spanish Arch, constructed during the mayoralty of Wylliam Martin (1519–20). In 1477 Christopher Columbus visited Galway, possibly stopping off on a voyage to Iceland or the Faroe Islands. Seven or eight years later, he noted in the margin of his copy of Imago Mundi "Men of Cathay have come from the west. [Of this] we have seen many signs. And especially in Galway in Ireland, a man and a woman, of extraordinary appearance, have come to land on two tree trunks [or timbers?]" The most likely explanation for these bodies is that they were Inuit swept eastward by the North Atlantic Current.

Edited by dedalus

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

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