Category Archives: Poetry

Remembering Francis Ledwidge, Poet and Soldier

Just outside the village of Slane, County Meath is the Francis Ledwidge Museum. The museum is housed in the family home with a yard and garden to the rear.

Francis was born in this small cottage that dates from 1886, the 8th of 9 children. His father died soon after the 9th child was born.  Desperately poor, their mother laboured in the fields to keep bread on the table until the eldest son, Patrick  was sufficiently educated to get a job and help the family. However, Patrick contracted tuberculosis and had to return home  and their mother was forced to return to her back -breaking labouring.

Francis left school at 15 and took whatever work he could get – he worked as a farm labourer, as a groom, in a copper mine and as a foreman on the roads. All the while he was writing poetry and having some poems published in the local newspaper.  His poetry was brought to the attention of Lord Dunsany who arranged for publication in London and who also got introductions to literary figures of the day.

Francis Ledwidge known as ‘Poet of the Blackbird’  (Image Wikipedia Commons)

Having for a time been involved with the Irish Volunteers who sought Home Rule, Francis enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on October 24, 1914. It is possible that his decision to join up may have been influenced  by the fact that he was disappointed in love. He wrote to a friend  saying that he looked forward to poetry and fame after the war and that by joining he hoped to bring peace to the world.

He came home on leave to Slane at Christmas and was shocked to learn of the death of a little boy he knew well, who had herded cows past the Ledwidge house. Francis  wrote what is one of my favourite Ledwidge poems, A Little Boy in the Morning

He will not come, and still I wait. 
He whistles at another gate 
Where angels listen. Ah I know 
He will not come, yet if I go 
How shall I know he did not pass 
barefooted in the flowery grass?  

Then in 1915 he wrote this lovely Lullaby to a tired child

Shall I take the rainbow out of the sky

And the moon from the well in the lane

And break them in pieces to coax your eye

To slumber a wee while again?

While based in Basingstoke he heard of the death in childbirth of the girl he had loved and he got leave to attend her funeral in Manchester. He wrote

To One Dead

 A blackbird singing

On a moss-upholstered stone,

Bluebells swinging,

Shadows wildly blown,

A song in the wood,

A ship on the sea.

The song was for you

and the ship was for me.

On August 7, 1915  Francis and his comrades in D Company landed in Suvla Bay in Gallipoli. The conditions were awful, the stench from corpses, dysentery, and swarming flies all added to the horror. When they pulled out on September 30th, 19,000 of their comrades had been killed. They were sent marching towards Salonika, but Francis became ill and he was sent back to England at about the same time as the Easter Rising was happening in Dublin. His good friends Patrick Pearse and Thomas McDonagh were among the first to be executed. He then wrote what is probably his most famous poem

A Lament for Thomas MacDonagh

He shall not hear the bittern cry

In the wild sky, where he is lain,

Nor voices of the sweeter birds,

Above the wailing of the rain.

Nor shall he know when loud March blows

Blowing to flame the golden cup

Of many an upset daffodil.

But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor,

And pastures poor with greedy weeds,

Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn,

Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

Now in B Company, 1st Battalion of the 29th Division, he set sail for France and eventually ended up in Ypres where in mid July the Third Battle of Ypres began. on July 31st when engaged in road marking a shell exploded near him. The chaplain wrote: ‘Ledwidge killed, blown to bits’

The Ledwidge home is now a Museum where it is possible read from his many letters, and to see how he lived in his beloved Slane.

MemorIal in the Museum Garden

It was a special thrill to visit this place, his home and his garden, just a few weeks after the  centenary of his death.

He is buried at Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium.

Image result for ''CWGC LEDWIDGE FRANCIS EDWARD ARTILLERY WOOD''

The grave of the 29 year old Francis Ledwidge (Image Commonwealth Graves Commission)

References

Francis Ledwidge ‘Poet of the Blackbird’  published by Francis Ledwidge Museum

Commonwealth Graves Commission

Published collections

Songs of the Fields published 1916

Songs of Peace  published 1917

Last Songs  published 1918

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Poetry

Seamus Heaney’s Flaggy Shore

image Seamus Heaney was one of Ireland’s best loved poets. His death came suddenly on August 30, 2013, leaving an entire nation bereaved. While his work and his words live on in bookshelves and on bedside tables across the land, he is greatly missed. He had such a way with words and such a mellow speaking voice that I for one could listen to him all day long.
imageOn my recent trip along the Wild Atlantic Way I happened upon The Flaggy Shore in County Clare on the shores of Galway Bay. So here in front of me was a seascape that inspired this great man. On a grey day the leaden sky hung over a silvery sea lapping a silvery grey shore. I could not help but wonder how such a scene could inspire anyone!  And therein is his greatness. I recall reading that Heaney said of his poem about the Flaggy Shore ‘we drove on into this glorious exultation of air and sea and swans.’ The swans were not on the lake beside the shore on the day of my visit but there certainly was an abundance of air and sea!

Perhaps it takes a man of Heaney’s caliber and talent to see such beauty in what could be considered a relatively mundane landscape! Many know of this poem as ‘The Flaggy Shore’ but the correct title is ‘Postscript’.

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Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white

Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it

More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. – Seamus Heaney
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Seamus Heaney, poet, playwright, translator and lecturer, and the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature passed by this Flaggy Shore before me. I am so glad he did. He died three years ago. His legacy lives on.

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Filed under Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish Countryside, Irish Culture, Poetry

Postcards from Glenbower Wood, Killeagh, Co Cork

My ‘Postcards from’ series comes from villages or towns that I have visited. Now however, I want to make an exception, and send you Postcards not from a town or village, but from a wood in Ireland. Not just any wood, but a very special wood in her Springtime attire and with the sun casting dappled shadows through the emerging canopy of delicate new leaves. I hope you enjoy!

imageGlenbower Wood is situated behind the village of Killeagh, on the Cork – Waterford Road, in East Cork.  It gets its name from  the Irish “gleann-bodhar” or “Deafening Glen” from the noise the river  Dissour makes when rushing headlong in winter through the valley. I prefer the notion that the name is derived from the beautiful English word ‘bower’ meaning  ‘a pleasant  shady place under trees or climbing plants in a garden or wood’. Or perhaps it is both? Come join me in a springtime stroll in this beautiful place! The pictures speak for themselves.

Glenbower Wood has many species. The mostly deciduous native woodland  trees allow the light to reach the woodland floor in spring and early summer, giving a rich tapestry of beautiful plants.

Oxalis, violets, fern and wild garlic abound!

The paths wind along the river, from light into shade.

There is a very nice stand of  Redwoods,trees that are native to California. These were planted by the owners, the DeCapell family who lived here for about 7 centuries.

One of my favourite features is a little alcove on the bridge where musicians sat to entertain visitors perambulating through the woods. The ground level is higher nowadays, so it was a neat little nook to sit in.

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The real treat for me in early spring is in looking up at the delicate canopy of emerging leaves, that makes the sun dance along the woodland floor.

Woodlands are special places and here in East Cork we are blessed with a number of very special ones. I am reminded of the poem by Patience Strong, Woodland Cathedral.  This could have been penned about Glenbower Wood!

Go into the woodland
if you seek peace of mind–
As this time when Nature’s mood
is gentle, quiet and kind,
When soft winds fan the trembling leaves
about the cloistered glade–
And paths go winding deep into the green
and breathless shade.Where nothing breaks the silence
of the warm and fragrant air–
But snatches of sweet melody . . .
and wings that rend and tear–
The stillness of the windless dells
where shallow brooklets flow–
And shadows fleck the water
as the sunbeams come and go.

An unseen Presence walks the woods,
a sense of holy things–
Haunts the dim Cathedral aisles;
and every bird that sings–
Is like some morning chorister,
and every breath of air–
Seems to bring the secret murmur
of a whispered prayer.

Patience Strong

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Filed under Ireland, Ireland Seasons, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage, Poetry

Retirement: Smelling roses, enjoying brandy and learning to spit!

This is the third and final post on this trilogy on Retirement. My last two posts (here and here ) were  concerned with the very serious matters of mandatory retirement and the financial and social deprivation that were for me, the immediate fallout. March 2016 will see the 3rd anniversary of my compulsory retirement. The road was indeed a rocky one, and full of potholes, but now that I have travelled along it for a while, I have slipped into a ‘Third Age’ mentality and somehow seamlessly adapted to a life without the early morning alarm clock!

Some years ago my friend moved to live in London and I was amused by this little ditty that hung in her bathroom. Nicely framed, it was strategically placed so that any visiting females could not miss it.

WARNING!

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

——–Jenny Joseph.

During the early weeks of retirement I read this poem again several times. Cares and woes can certainly knock the stuffing out of anyone. Should I let them do just that and should I then go about running a stick along the railings, driving everyone mad? Clack, clack, clackclackclackclack clack, clack clackclackclack? A possible option, for sure!

BUT, this was NOT for me! I needed to re-evaluate, to re energize, to REINVENT myself if need be. And so I took every single opportunity to be away from home or in the company of others. During my first summer of ‘retirement’ I plied the length and breath of Ireland attending conferences and talks, popping into Museums and Galleries, going to beautiful places near home that deserved investigation, discovering things I did not know, rediscovering things I did know. If there were free events, so much the better. The budget was stretched as tight as a bodhran skin, but one or two fewer visits to the hairdressers was ok, and I never really minded beans on toast as a meal, and miracle of miracles—you do need fewer clothes when you don’t have to go to work! So on went the jeans and the comfy jacket…. and away I went!

A trip to Australia to spend time with my daughter and her family worked its magic…maybe this retirement isn’t so bad after all, with no worries about using up precious leave! The following year, having reached my 66th birthday I became eligible for free travel travel in Ireland and this opened up a whole new world…a day away in Dublin to go to the theatre, a day strolling around Galway, a day shopping in Cork or a day enjoying the festival in Tralee…all for free!

It took about a year to adjust to not having to rise at 6.30 each morning. During that transition year I discovered the gift of TIME that I now have in abundance. I use it as far as I can to improve my changed life. There is time to seek out and select bargains, time  for long slow cooking and tasty recipes, time to walk, time to read, time to spend hours in the swimming pool, time to exercise, time to catch up with friends, time to do some volunteering work, time to study and learn new things, and time to smell the roses!

I have not yet spent my pension on brandy, but I do have time to enjoy the occasional glass and as for ‘learning to spit’ – I am working on that – figuratively speaking of course!

(Clipart Image)

I plan on wearing purple!

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Living in Ireland, My Oral History, Older Generation, Poetry, Retirement Age, Seniors

Seamus Heaney ~ Weaving Words within my Heart

Today a Nation mourns the loss of our Nobel  prize-winning poet, Seamus Heaney. A generous, unpretentious, uplifting man whose legacy will live on. I am very fond of this post from Social Bridge in which he features so beautifully, a beautiful tribute to a celebrated Irishman. Mourned not only in Ireland, but in the world.

SOCIAL BRIDGE ~ Jean Tubridy connecting with you from Ireland

Seamus Heaney and his poetry have been weaving in and out of my life for  over 25 years now. I remember celebrating wildly with my mother in 1995 when news came through that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

It seemed so right that he was star poet reading at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2009,  just a few short weeks after Mother had died.  Kilkenny was the place where my parents first met in the early 1940s and I felt their happy youthful presence all round me as I made my way to St. Canice’s Cathedral for the performance.

Nothing could ever have prepared me for the impact which Seamus Heaney and his poetry had on me that balmy August evening.  It was as if he knew that Mother had just died and was trying to comfort me by telling me that I was not alone in my…

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WARNING! When I am old……

Warning – When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

By Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple

with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired

and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

and run my stick along the public railings

and make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens

and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

and eat three pounds of sausages at a go

or only bread and pickles for a week

and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

and pay our rent and not swear in the street

and set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

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Filed under Humour, Older Generation, Poetry, Seniors