Thursday, February 4, 2010

"I speak with a proud tongue...": A poem for our Irish ancestors

A great poem that helps to conjure up images of many of our Irish forebears...

Dedication
by Patrick MacGill (1890- )

I speak with a proud tongue of the people who were
And the people who are,
The worthy of Ardara, the Rosses and Inishkeel,
My kindred-
The people of the hills and the dark-haired passes
My neighbours on the lift of the brae,
In the lap of the valley.
To them Slainthé!

I speak of the old men,
The wrinkle-rutted,
Who dodder about foot-weary -
For their day is as the day that has been and is no more -
Who warm their feet by the fire,
And recall memories of the times that are gone;
Who kneel in the lamplight and pray
For the peace that has been theirs -
And who beat one dry-veined hand against another
Even in the sun-
For the coldness of death is on them.

I speak of the old women
Who danced to yesterday's fiddle
And dance no longer.
They sit in a quiet place and dream
And see visions
Of what is to come,
Of their issue,
Which has blossomed to manhood and womanhood -
And seeing thus
They are happy
For the day that was leaves no regrets,
And peace is theirs
And perfection.

I speak of the strong men
Who shoulder their burdens in the hot day,
Who stand on the market-place
And bargain in loud voices,
Showing their stock to the world.
Straight the glance of their eyes -
Broad-shouldered,
Supple.
Under their feet the holms blossom,
The harvest yields.
The their path is of prosperity.

I speak of the women,
Strong hipped, full-bosomed,
Who drive the cattle to graze at dawn,
Who milk the cows at dusk.
Grace in their homes,
And in the crowded ways
Modest and seemly -
Mother of children!

I speak of the children
Of the many townlands,
Blossoms of the Bogland,
Flowers of the Valley,
Who know not yesterday, nor to-morrow,
And are happy,
The pride of those who have begot them.

And thus it is,
Every and always,
In Ardara, the Rosses and Inishkeel -
Here, as elsewhere,
The Weak, the Strong, and the Blossoming -
And thus my kindred.

To them Slainthé!


(This poem can be found in 1000 Years of Irish Poetry: The Gaelic and Anglo Irish Poets from Pagan Times to the Present by Kathleen Hoagland)

1 comment:

Miriam said...

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