by Patrick MacGill (1889-1963)
I speak with a proud tongue of the people who were
And the people who are,
The worthy of Ardara, the Rosses and Inishkeel,
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,
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
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 -
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)
For more good Irish reading on St. Patrick's Day, visit Small-leaved Shamrock, the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture or my Pinterest page.
Want to work on tracing your Irish roots? Visit my Irish genealogy page or my article at The Catholic Gene entitled Seeking the Flock of St. Patrick: Researching Catholic Ancestors in Ireland.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! (Ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv)
Happy St. Patrick's Day!