Saturday, March 17, 2007

Some Irishness

My 1/4 Irish side wishes everyone a Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

Or as Liam says, Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

(I certainly hope that's "Happy St. Patrick's Day" in Gaelic and not some Irish obscenity.)

A little offering from Irish poet and Nobel Prize-winner, Seamus Heaney . . .

Lightenings viii

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
'This man can't bear our life here and will drown,'

The abbot said, 'unless we help him.' So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
HERE is Heaney's Bio, Nobel Prize Speech, more poems, etc.

Three more poems, along with audio of Heaney reading them.


crystal said...

Nice poems!

I have some Irishness too. My grnadmother was a McNeely, and grandpa used to call her Mick. But still, I can't translate what Liam wrote ... I guess we'll have to trust him.

Liam said...

It was "Happy St Patrick's Day." If I had wanted to say something obscene, I would have said "Pog ma thon."

crystal said...

hey William - haven't seen you around for a while. I hope you're ok.