THE TRIBE OF EARTH
FIRST SECTION. SELECTED VERSE
The notion of the Tribe of Earth as presented in the
four sections of poems represents a fresh identification
regarding the ultimate drives, actions and rituals of
the human race. The collection is the twin of a philosophical
work, the possession of Being- not of a Being- and which
represents a new presentation of the great unresolved
problem of the Being of beings.
The dynamic of this latter work re-sets all previous
assertions involving human aspiration and destiny and
presents totally fresh themes regarding the centrality
of art and meaning in all creative endeavour. From this,
and among other developments such as a return to strict
lyricism and structure, there is a direct moving away
from themes of sense of place-which has long run its
course- to the sense of Being of which the former exists.
Regarding the four sections in this overall collection,
each is related to specific aspects of the human drives
and ambitions of the Tribe of Earth. The opening section,
Sellected Verse, is a series of lyrical poems created
in the light of the new identification including three
fantasia poems related to W.B. Yeats, Michael Collins
and Patrick Kavanagh. Another theme in this first section
is the presentation of a fresh and central role for
Ireland in the image of the monastic age 5th to 9th
century when Ireland was last a world centre of intellect
and art. The identification of the Being of beings represents
the basis of a Fifth Age following the Four Ages of
the Ireland of the Light, that is, the raising of the
early monuments, the monastic age, the cultural and
artistic restoration in the latter half of the nineteenth
century and Imperium Hibernium- the immense Irish emigrant
contribution to world civilization over recent centuries.
A poem tells how this notion of the possession is the
reason for all wars and conflict and how reason can
not cope with its power.
The second section is a presentation of the notion of
the Logos culminating in the illuminations of the Book
of Kells which is presented as the supreme universal
artistic affirmation of the Logos. This latter term
is often presented as an ordering of things, a putting
of form on the world around us, shaping a reality on
existence, a unity of human experience, the rational
and spiritual principle, a physical affirmation of existence
and so on. Again, only the identification of the Being
of things gives the authentic answer. This section presents
a series of poems dramatizing the origin of the spoken
word in the marriage of verb and noun, the creating
of an alphabet out of the oral tradition leading to
the written word, the creation of the velum and gathering
of the inks and pigments for the monastic illuminations.
The third section contains the direct Tribe of Earth
poems where the notion of evolution is removed from
its conventional entrenchment as a strict scientific
theory and re set in the wider realm of the Being of
beings, that is, in its authentic reality as a vast
spiritual pilgrimage. Accordingly the creatures of nature
are all of an immense creative process shaping them
in the image of their journey, representing the greatest
of all works of art. This section is dominated by the
poem “The Promise,” the return journey of
the person, of the Tribe of Earth, confronted by a fresh
setting of human destiny. The western world is in a
quandary. It is more and more frustrated by the failure
of the scientific /positivist promise to attend to the
depth of the human aspiration , and frustrated by formal
religious presentation for which the traditional Graeco-Roman
servant has run its course.
The forth section, A Book of Meditations, represents
a series of very short, condensed poems.
One of the main inspirational factors that led to the
discoveries regarding Being was the sound of the Uilleann
Pipes from my earliest memories as played by my father,
notably the octave rise in the slow airs as I worked
to make sense of its effect on me, worked to find answers
to the mode of an endless call.
And Being is my theme.
Yeats in Purgatory
I speak the Ireland of the Light
If there be no resurrection
The Blind Piper.
Canticle of Birth
Who speaks the mystic wrath?
I have lived throughout this surging time
I met with Collins in his old days.
I have nothing for your grief but my song
Sometimes I long to be
Farewell aul’ heart
The Piper of Fair Head
O swan up our gentle waters.
Irish pipers! Know your calling.
The mist is on Slieve Gullion.
AND BEING IS MY THEME.
(Setting the new theme and farewell to
the old base of verse that has gone barren)
And Being is my theme.
Not that writhing, winding way
That tormented the ages’ quest
But the clear flow of a memory
Long hidden away, long lost.
I took up my two-fold travelling
From the earliest sounds heard,
The pipes and the chatting visitors
Downstairs in the room
And said, one day I will shape a chord
Of pure thought, of a book of song
To make ripe from those early risings
The inner, inner deep of things,
To write down the unwritten,
To sing the great unsung,
I’ll end old pains, heal old scars,
Remembering what was once known,
Remembering what the world forgot.
Then let all rise and face our star,
Rise out of the long, long wait
And move again, and take our steps
Into the heartland, into the core,
The flare of mid-winter morning,
The octave rise of the pipes.
Farewell old ways. That no more.
The pallid hills, the pallid valley
As plough and harrow lie in rust
And soil drained of all offering.
Nor the cycles bring fresh tidings,
Nor all your rains and windborne ways,
Your spread of noon, your lengthening day
Arouse a stirring at a root,
Raise a greening shade or show.
But that no more and that no more,
That no longer, that no more,
And now into the tremor hour
Early flame and fanfare come
As the fresh, rich volcanic rush
Spill out of the molten core,
The fire-born purity appear
And there in the air’s embrace
Spread the balm, spread the balm.
Now our fields gulp down their fill,
The flow of plenty sooth the vast drooth
And drone of sap, bass and tenor
Hum into the deep of the land.
And so return to the early flow,
And so move out again from there
Now full of the lost legacy,
Now replenished for the journey.
We tune our fiddle and pipe drones,
We tune the harp and clear the throat
And let lips open around the lines.
In dancing rain and dance of light,
Noon dance and the dance of dawn
Add fresh verses to the great song,
Make new chorus from the old refrain.
(Recalling youthful listening to the visitors playing
their traditional music in our house as I lay awake
upstairs; memories of their ritual
and the migrating birds.)
I knew them in their arriving
At the back door and the gentle
Latch open, the slow feet stall
At the entrance to their gathering.
I remember once I arose a while
To sit with them in their circle
And the faces all lit with the rise
Of the hearth fire. No drum
Marked time nor bódhrán beat
Broke the lock on their eyes,
The bow arm pendulum,
And the heart pound of their feet.
I watched the piper in his blank stare
And finger dance along the chanter,
Maybe an hour sat by the drone
And the shadows of the hearth flame,
Maybe an hour, tune after tune
Until sleep aroused me into dream.
But they were gone, the music men
When I awoke to follow them,
The fiddlers gone, the piper gone,
And cold gathered to the ashes,
And cold gathered around their chairs
When I awoke in the empty room.
Yet late that day I knew I heard
Their stir of sound again, the cran
And shake, triplet and turn
In the gathering of migrating bird,
Circle and call, wheel and cry
Their wild fling in the sky.
Along the head-rig of a ploughed acre
Facing north in the north wind
I trail the skies to evening's shore
Until the darkness sets me blind.
And dawn, and day, by day, by dawn,
I'll wait, I'll watch for their return.
I once wrote a love poem about a young couple, and
some years afterwards decided to give it a fresh edit,
changing words and lines and so on. But I was so used
to the original version that when I went to recite the
new material the old kept intruding and would not go
away. I then likened this experience to actual real
life I was writing about, that the couple had grown
together into each other’s ways, into an ever
deepening relationship and became inseparable with age,
reacting very gravely to the attempt to separate them.
I returned to some old verse
In the middle pages of a jotter
About a lover and his lass
I had written there years before,
And after staring for a time
Ringed words to make a change,
Soften rhythm, soften rhyme,
Pluck, stitch, re arrange.
I read aloud and re read
The lines of my amendment,
But old words raised their head,
And jarred there, and broke my chant,
And noun recoiled and drew in
Its adjectives around it
As verb and preposition
Soured to my edit.
And when I went to read again
I found a fractured couplet,
And fresh lines broken down,
And fresh words thrown about.
I pulled and probed their clinging
To part one from the other,
The more I forced the editing,
The tighter clung together.
I stopped, erased my pencil scars,
Set the jotter in its place
And left them there, old lovers,
In their newly locked embrace.
A prophesy of the World Wars
and vaerious disasters in the rejection of the female
element by the great male construction. The opening
verse depicts her birth in the Arctic from where she
sought to form a bond of completion. But her approaches
were rejected in the surge of male invincibility, and
she forced its destruction.
From the centre
Of the polar galaxy, her body forms.
Out of the spiral rims,
The immaculate, unbriny stars,
The slow, turning, winding layers
Raises up her arms.
Soon a descending figure
Will touch the arctic crown,
In the long twilight shimmer there
Stand under dusk and dawn.
After the forming came,
After she took that form
Followed toward the sounding heard
In rhyme and beat of the shipyard,
Followed the welding spark and flare.
They cast her out, they turned her away
At every rivet thrown and struck
As the great shape, belly and back,
Along the gantry, plate by girder
Raised its triumphant body.
Now she turns her head
Toward the watery void,
And on her solemn face,
And on her flowing mantle
A glow as the Aurora Borealis.
The moon is down, starlight rises
And she, abiding her worth,
Remains motionless until
At the chosen hour
Steps from her place
Into the mist of Labrador,
And moves south.
YEATS IN PURGATORY
(Fantasia in seven verses)
The notion of a Fantasia as presented
here relates to a revealing of factors that remain concealed
in the normal interpretation of events. They great legends
and myths are rightly fantasia. But the application
of the notion of the Being of art, that is, the natural
mystical experience common to all aspiration- and the
source of mythology-presents interpretations that enlighten
the normal interpretations.
In this regard, Yeats was wrong to project his overall
poetic quest as the pursuit of ‘the primordial
memory of Nature.’ What he was actually seeking,
but did not identify, was the primordial memory of Being,
(not a Being, but Being) and from this that the dominant
urge in life is not any of the conventional factors
presented by psychoanalysts or philosophers, but the
possession of Being.
This possession is normally embodied in some obsession
in life through a person or specific interest and with
Yeats it manifest itself in the person of Maude Gonne.
The drama of this journey dominates his writings, and
remains a struggle to the end as his later verse tells.
The opening verse in this fantasia sets the scene in
1947 following the funeral procession by land and sea
from France to Drumcliff and re interment, and where
Yeats is welcomed home by the people and the elements
of nature. But things suddenly shift as his spirit is
confronted by a chorus telling him that his poetic affirmations
are not an ultimate victorious consummation of his life
but are strictly an act of oblation. He is told that
the cycles and factors of his system exist only of the
wider arc of Being and do not themselves have inherent
integrity. Verses four and five refer to the order of
Being whcih Yeats was not aware of taht all art is essentially
oblation. The mystical experience will come only when
she appears to him out of the embers of the final purging,
the immolation of his verse.
Yeats body was actually re interred in September 1948
but the poem sets the event in November for effect as
the month of All Souls.
Monochrome November. The church wall
And headstone set to the setting sun,
Grey flowers line the twilight soil,
The mourners and their prayers are gone.
Now moon and dusk are changing guard
As the dim arms of beech, of oak
Reach out to skies beyond the dead.
Above Ben Bulben stars awake,
Meteor and meteorite
From dark to dark streak the night.
And out of neither dark or day,
And out of neither void or place
Voices gather, spread their way,
Voices louden, thin and bass-
“Yeats! William Butler Yeats!
From these lips of flame we swear
With all that ripens, all that rots,
Your art is not of judgment here,
Your verse is not a life’s array
Come to make triumphant entry.
“That early hearing as a song-bird sound,
That first awakening, the first command
Of youth’s solemnity stirred your head
To seek a pen, and there she stood
And smiled and turned and moved away
Into the mist from where she came.
Vision or human, twilight or full day,
A half awakening, a half dream
You moved at once to step her road,
Left all things behind and followed.
“We watched on you, dream after dream
Where things gathered in the full of night
And told of deeper, wider rhyme
Commanding every line you wrote,
And told beyond your solemn reach,
Beyond the gyres, the cycles’ torch
A law resides not identified
In quest of mind, in strain of blood,
A law from where the mind is risen,
From where the blood is come and gone.
“Those mysteries remain inviolate.
Theme after theme, scenting, scouting words
Sought out and shaped and yet
As the hum of the Upanishads,
As in all those great intensities
Verb and noun wilt their ways,
Verb and noun return to drone.
We told that art is but oblation,
We spoke the coming of the thorible,
The pyre waiting, the pyre’s call.”
Flame on flame the fires rise
And Yeats’ verse begins to burn.
The light dances on his lowered eyes
As colors flare from verb and noun,
As one by one the pages turn,
One by one the pages perish,
All the sap-full stanzas wane
Curl and shrivel, enter ash.
And ash is all. And the ashes cold.
It is death again. Still. All stilled-
As a bloom of lunar dawn
In the void of night, a shape appears.
Coming on the place where death had gone
It moves, brightening in its own light.
Half form, half fire, the steady flares
Allow a vague body to fill the sight
And all is wild again. All is wilder,
The dancing shade, the rounding face,
Features shaping in a flame’s stir,
Features forming out of the dead verse.
I WILL SET FIRE TO THE ETERNAL HILLS.
(This poem refers to the effects of the work “The
Possession of Being”in transforming the approach
to the understanding of human destiny in a newly identified
order. The term “eternal hills,” often “everlasting
hills” is taken from a phrase in
the litany of the rosary and other litanies which go
back to lines from Genesis (49.26) and Habukkuk (3.6)
It is sometimes a reference to the wisdom of the prophets
and patriarchs, or to the notion of unsurpassed earthly
duration –that of the hills- of which there is
a greater divine duration. In the poem, “eternal”
is preferred to “everlasting” because of
the extra scope it gives regarding the ten syllable
restriction in the lines of a villanelle.)
I will set fire to the eternal hills,
I will strike light where nations roam the dark,
And young cries will linger, and old age calls
When I pronounce on early writs and wills.
And I will tremble limbs where wise men lurk,
I will set fire to the eternal hills.
And I will white the crows and black the gulls
And hang a red-breast on the rising lark,
And young cries will linger, and old age calls,
And even if clouds mount the blazing swells
And rains engorge the rivers in their wake,
I will set fire to the eternal hills
That all things spread anew, old broken tales
Break more, break down, fresh cracks fissure and fork,
And young cries will linger, and old age calls.
I will set fire to the eternal hills.
I will strike light where nations roam the dark.
And young cries will linger, and old age calls.
I will set fire to the eternal hills.
A friend bereaved by an infant death
many years ago told me how he tried
to cope with the tragedy and asked
if I might commemorate his thoughts
And even though we parted
Before your breath
Could form my name,
Even though your head
Never turned toward me
Nor heard the prayer I made
All that time ago,
My eyes still follow you,
I watched you grow with all the others
Down the years after,
School time and play time,
Departing and coming home
I heard your step, your laugh,
And you take your place
Around the table, and stand there
In the family photograph.
But watched you grow solemn
From time to time
And your smile fall away,
And your dark eyes lower,
Watched you grow solemn
As if now and again
You feared that I’d awake some day,
And find you gone.
The poem relates to the universal trauma of grief,
the experience of loss, living loss or the loss of one
in death. It depicts the sufferer initially facing west
into sunset following after what is gone. But sometime
later, it speaks of an acceptance that they must turn
and face the opposite direction and travel into the
night, that what will not return from the West might
be found in some new manner in the East. In keeping
with this, the poem works to put such experiences into
the perspective that the acceptance of the loss in all
its realities uncovers and raises fresh enlightenment
in the human dynamic. This is presented in an image
of the eye of the owl, of hearing beyond the normal
mode, of experiences of strange peace, a sense of oblation
perhaps, a fresh calling to create comfort and belonging
that while the grieving person seems to be no longer
the person they once were, they are the exact same person
in a different, elevated mode of experience.
I watched you facing the lowering west
As twilight waited on the rims of day.
I watched the evening pilgrimage,
You come and stand in solemn stare
At the distant parting of the dusk,
And a lone star come out to scout
And others follow, and fill the night.
And then one day you were not there.
I heard you’d turned, you moved away
And faced toward the unknown land,
Faced eastward into the gloom,
And step by slow step entered there.
I heard that close to midnight
The dark had filled you to the core,
The dark had clotted, had set hard
Around all hope and plead and prayer
As you lowered there into the loss.
You lowered into the abyss.
That age went on. The day not soften,
Sleep not sooth. And on again.
But then, I heard that an owl’s eye
Had shaped a form in the formless void,
I heard of a brightening gathering
Where no warning told the hour
And a voice soft as a move of leaves
As one who never spoke before
Shape your name, shape your name,
And say in slow and gentle tone-
“That dawn of old will not
Spread its light on your waking eye,
But day is here, and day is come
Out of the dark that held your hand,
And the one you were, you are no
And the one you are, you ever were.”
Outstanding creative figures of the twentieth century
begin their march from east to west in celebration of
sublime works of art, of great truths uncovered in science,
great positions in philosophy, moving in procession
to enter their arch of triumph in the West. But they
suddenly make a u-turn when they reach mid-Armagh on
the hill of Mullyard, and march back eastward from where
they came. A flight of migratory geese and starling
moving in the opposite direction suddenly confront them
and they have a Pentecostal moment that their understanding
of absolutes and ultimate truths disintegrates in the
wider order of Being.
On the horizon of the century
The head of Yeats comes. Near his rising stride
Jung’s face turns to Joyce. That’s Picasso,
Poincaré and Einstein side by side,
Planck there, Freud there, Bell there and Bohr,
Curie there stepping it, Eliot and Tolstoy,
Russell there and Wittgenstein, Woolf, James,
Heidegger and Sartre, Plath there, Barth,
Marching it out across the Breague
And onward, onward, mile there after mile,
Left!........................ Left! .........................Left!
I stopped them on the Brackley Road.
I waved them down and stood and said-
“Why have to turned to face the east
When you passed this way to west?
Were you not moving to a journey’s end
To march into a place of triumph,
And why on the hill of Mullyard
Did you make that sudden circling turn
And move away from the face of dusk,
Make return to the place of dawn?”
They drew a breath, and a long breath,
And spoke loud as a single voice-
“We don’t know. We
The wild geese, the starling cloud,
And followed there. We followed there
Nor slowing step, nor change of beat.
Something told us all to turn,
The wild geese, the starling dance.”
“But before you go”- I
“Was there not some early marching song
That fired the feet, and did it die
Voice after voice and the steps alone
Begin to louden, steps alone drum away
That all the buds you made for bloom
Had found their blossom wilting there
And the feet ever more on fire? But tell it plain,
Why did you not keep marching on,
Why the turning, why the turn?”
“We don’t know and
we don’t know.
We turned around as straight ahead
And the wild geese, the cloud of starling,
Following there and following there
Nor slowing step, nor change of beat,
The wild geese and the starling dance.”
And they moved off in their rhythm
And marched away across Drumbunion
Up the sloping of Armaghbreague
Steady of step, steady of step
In and out of the mist of evening.
Slow twilight was gathering there.
Faint and fainter the marching lines.
But on and on, and line by line
They moved up to the brow of the hill
And over the rim from where they came,
Left! ..............Left!................ Left!
MASTER AND SLAVE
First published 1998
Master and slave fall in each other’s arm.
Side by side spiral, limb crossed on crossed limb.
Our soft breeze now a now gale, our early stream
Is turned to torrent. And yet the alarm
Was known to them in depth of day and dream
As all around the indifferent calm
Voices from loud and from whispering lips
Spoke cataclysm, spoke apocalypse.
They were false who preached to us in these times
That wisdom would rise and be the champion
Of a chosen age. They were false whose rhymes
Brandished new worlds, new ways against the tone
Of history, they and their novel themes
All forgot the frailty of reason,
Forgot that tomorrow is an invader
Come to disturb the passion of the hour.
Away at the dinosaur’s final stand
Where the great spined mover once flared its rule
Remains were found at a lone footprint’s end.
The raised it bone by bone from bone dry soil
Spreading their excavations on the ground
And gave it plastic sockets, joints of steel
Along the vertebrae and nine inch bite.
Then set it up number one exhibit.
And now again the fullness of the feast,
Now at the zenith of the tribal dance
Our rhythm stirs the polar soul. We cast
Our poison in the pure seas as the trance
Emerges from the dance and there the last
Of the jungle clan is slain. Lungs that once
Cleansed the world’s breath- nature’s healing
Come with life- are now away. Will come no more.
And so our ever watchful moon looks on.
She from whose early touch life here first stirred,
And mother earth in full lamentation,
The old cries unheeded, the prophets dead,
The great pilgrimage of evolution,
That holy, blesséd journey now betrayed.
And Eden’s garden empties once again.
And rhymes arise speaking of redemption.
Written for an uncle, Tommy Makem,
and recited as the final farewell at his funeral,
August 2007, Dover NH.
Farewell good Tommy
Earth and sky are calling.
Farewell fair and noble friend,
The parting hour
Has tolled its bell,
The parting hour is come
When we must turn
And set you free
Into the arms of eternity.
Farewell good friend, farewell.
Your deeds have changed us,
Your days have lived in us
That we must speak the flame they lit,
Our fullest thought, our deepest sigh-
What beat that heart
Will live forever,
What filled that mind
Can never die.
F arewell again, farewell.
And even though our heads are down,
Even though our grief is full,
The stirrings in us stir again,
The stirrings in us rise and say-
No dark can come upon you,
As you journey, as you move on,
Through the water of the sunset,
Into the milk of the dawn.
A commemoration of a very special event in rugby
history at Cardiff Arms Park on January 27 1973 between
the Barbarians and the All Blacks. While the Babarians
team contained famous players from Ireland, England
and Scotland the poem presents the celebrated try as
an apotheosis of Welsh Rugby, a single surge of exaltation.
The term ynys afállon,- roughly the eternal land-
is the name of a paradise in Welsh mythology. For the
purpose of rhythm in the poem, a stress is on the second
syllable. The term epiphany means a special dramatic
showing or revelation.
And the moment appeared to Bennett,
The moment filled his step
That there, out of mine and valley,
Out of dream and song and dream
And the solemn deep of the Arms Park,
There, against the Kiwi masters
In the glow of Slattery and Willie John,
Carmichael, Duckham and Mc Loughlin,
Of Gibson, Bevan, Wilkinson
The great epiphany unfold.
And JPR take up the step
As the jig time move into reel,
And Pullin flow, and flare of Dawes,
David dancing into line
Into the ever speeding dance,
Quinnell arrive, and great rhythm,
Great rhythm and throb of feet,
And then- that all might fall away,
Something come to break the charm-
Edwards appear from his abode,
Edwards make the final rhyme
Like a falcon scooping its prey,
Move off beyond mortal touch,
And soar into Ynys afállon.
The dangers of Sellafield for the
east coast areas of Ireland is presented as the specter
of a Strongbow or Cromwell come again. Just when things
are moving into new times, another invader is landing
on our shores.
We scanned these seas for strangers
In the dawn sun, for foreign boat
Stared into fog, our sleepless ears
Sprung at shoreline sounds, our heart beat
Ready in the still night. Those waters
And their tidal ways lived among us,
Living ever there as the night of stars,
And we, full of this, full of song of verse
Still brood on a strange rhyme of oar,
The whispering of a speeding prow
That even now in our thankful prayer
At war's end, watching new things grow,
Moving out of long dreams
Have not reached "amen" before
Our voices drop, old faces and names
Enter with the prayerful stir,
Old dreading, old despair
In the tide and the wind and rain
Turning us to the conqueror,
Strongbow, Cromwell come again.
FAREWELL AUL’ HEART
Written back in 1969 in response to an elderly
neighbour who remarked how strange it was
that we never see or thank the inside workings of
our bodies that keep us alive for so long.
Written in the local Derrynoose accent.
Farewell aul’ heart I’ve
Yar batein’ pumpin’ face,
Farewell aul’ lungs, the same to you
An’ the way ye run the race.
Ye wrought away for the four score
In the day’s rise an sinkin,’
Ye wrought away without a stap,
And nivar lucked for thankin’.
An’ kidney twins- what can I
The pair a ye at your work?
Over the years ye drained away
As much as would fill a lake.
An’ stomach, bowel and miles a’ tubes
How did ye keep all goin’?
Eighty long labourin’ years
And rarely blocked the flowin.’
Farewell aul’ brain, farewell again
Ye kept all your secrets well.
All the comin’s and goin’s there
Away in the deep a’ the skull.
But you were mine, and mine ye stayed
An sight and hearing all for free,
And all the thoughts and memories-
Ye kept them just for me.
An’ whinever the odd aul’ pain and ache
Come t’worry me, slow me down,
You brought your healing to the sores,
An’ fought t’ make me well again.
An’ whin the final ways arrived
There ye were t’ make yar stand.
Ye’ fought t’ ye could fight no more,
Ye fought away t’ the bitter end.
Farewell aul’ body I nivar knew
That I was loved so dearly,
I niver knew your sarvant ways
That waited on me hourly,
An’ I nivar knew, an’ I nivar thought
A time would come t’ grieve ye,
For it’s only now I’m tornin’ roun,’
T’ love ye, as ye lave me.
I SPEAK THE IRELAND OF THE LIGHT.
The four great Irish ages, the affirmations of the
Ireland of the Light are presented in the poem as follows.
1. The earliest affirmations of the human possession
of Being, the assertions of the stone arrangements,
notably such as Newgrange from 2500 BC.
2. The monastic Age, 6-11th century, at home and abroad
involving the schools at Bangor, Armagh and Clonmacnoise,
the missionary journeys to Europe and the founding of
institutions of learning there. It also includes the
supreme artistic creativity of such as the Book of Kells.
3. The Restoration. This refers in the last third of
the nineteenth century regarding the re-establishment
of Irish culture involving such as the Gaelic League,
the formation of the GAA, the collections of Irish traditional
music leading to the later formation of Comhaltas Ceolteori
Eireann, the gathering of the myths and legends of Ireland,
the creation of the National Theatre, and the assertions
4. Imperium Hibernium. The“Irish Empire”
refers to the vast Irish contribution to world civilization
over the recent centuries from all parts of the Island,
through general emigration and formal missionary endeavor.
The projected Fifth Age, the age to come, relates to
the authentic identification of the hitherto unresolved
problem of the Being of beings as presented in the parallel
work “The Possession of Being.” This transforms
the understanding of what exists to be known and the
knowing factor applied, that all human disciplines exist
only of the wider dynamic of their Being. It also refers
to the position that the natural mysticism and direct
experience of the Being of beings enjoyed by the ancients
has been distorted by philosophical and scientific theories
because of the absence of Being in their affirmations.
The refrain represents a calling on the Fifth Age to
enlighten the true meaning of the preceding Four and
so create a new age of the Ireland of the Light and
raise Ireland out of its modern drift into anonymity.
The “two Greek chieftains” mentioned are
Plato and Aristotle.
I speak the Ireland of the Light.
I speak the heart pound of the Four Ages.
From oldest times into these final days
I speak the pilgrim toilers, of all who wrote
And shaped and made their travel
Now watch on a spread of landing wings
The tidings of the fifth age come, reveal
To all the inner, inner deep of things,
And drúm béat múst soúnd
Ánd the gréat cáll bé heárd
And óld thíngs bé máde agáin
And óld thíngs bé dóne,
Óld thíngs bé máde agáin,
And óld thíngs bé dóne.
I think of Johannes Scotus chanting
His verse across the ninth century.
Though Greek of armor, the Irish soul
At last spilt out, drew west and east
Into its embrace. But in that song
Of the great returning told the way
Of an older memory, he the final,
Most lauded of that monastic feast.
And there the story moves. Did he know
More than those Boyne ancients knew?
I tell the primitive profundity.
I tell that pure unbroken memory
Before the muddy waters
Entered its pristine flow. These ancestors
Lived free-born in their knowing state,
Lived out the natural mystical
Until the gods of reason sealed their fate,
Another Eden there, another Fall,
And drum beat must sound.
And the great call be heard.
And old things be made.
And old things be done.
The two Greek chieftains in their vast brooding
Sought to trap the passion of their fathers,
One calling down, one raising outward
Gathering all the tuning to their chord.
And yet their verses made no final song,
No pole star turn the night of stars,
Nor age of reason, brow-struck flare,
Until the octave rise of the chanter
Appeared at last on that spread of wings-
Reveal the Being to the beings.
Be lured no more by an inner Cromwell
To purge the greatness in the kill,
Hang harper and piper again, we
Now on our drift into anonymity,
But let us listen with the other ear
To the rhyming chanting of the Four
Telling loudly of the Fifth way
To ready the pen, ready the scroll,
Ready the heads for the full call,
Ready the sails for another journey.
All around us much is dying,
All around us much is over.
The proud old lands lead out no more,
Have slowed their dance, thinned their song,
But we who healed in far off times
Again bring tidings from the distant rims,
We move again, our thoughts in rhyme,
Re set, re sap, re flow, re bud, re bloom.
And drum beat must sound again,
And the great call be heard again,
And old things be made again
And old things be done.
Old things be made again.
And old things be done.
Beyond the restless edges
Of the tectonic plates
Antrim’s form is cast and set.
Beyond the fracture lines
That woke up Alp and Himalaya,
The third, the final lava spill
Fulfilled all assertions.
At a place east of Dunluce
Its slowing motion darkened
Into the black clot,
Year on year after year
Cooling in the sun’s heat,
Warm in the cool of the moon.
And there, out from the solid depth
Faint sound as chanting came,
An ever loudening chorus
Rising pitch, racing scale
Broke out to its sky
In a final convulsion.
They face toward the ocean
Like seals crowded on a shore,
The face to the horizon
In their hexagonal wait
Century by century
At tidal wash and parting,
The forms of Antrim one by one
Gather into the bond of dark,
Reappear in the call of dawn.
IF THERE BE NO NEW REVELATION
One of the two poems regarding identity in the modern
world. It represents a distinctive call that Ireland-
and the other old nations and peoples-have identity
today only through giving the world something in intellect
and art that the world does not have without them. Otherwise
there is disintegration, and their history will have
been in vain. The quotation in the poem “in vain
do the builders build,” is a line from Psalm 127
which represents authenticity of inheritance and of
putting order on the deepest human affirmations of existence.
If there be no new revelation
In vain do the builders build.
If after all that early stand
Of monk and scholar, verse and song
A rising shimmer not appear
And out of there, and stepping clear
By lough shore and random mountain
Figures move across the land
To write down the unwritten,
To sing the great unsung-
In vain has Ireland lived her time
In vain have the voices called,
In vain the dreamer, vain the dream
In vain do the builders build.
The craving is in full spate.
More than at any other hour
The oldest hunger is crying out,
And midnight, morning sound again
Clamoring its fresh lamentation.
Our fathers awaken, they gather
Along the bend of the Boyne,
They move in soft, low murmur
As twilight opens into the dawn.
And the murmur rises, and words appear-
‘Bring out the mould, and pour the melt,
And sing alive the waiting land
And sing of our eternal bond
With the house that the builders built.’
If the world does not sense us,
If the world does not raise an ear
And fin vibrato, wing strum,
Clamor up upon our shore
To whisper pointing out toward us,
Whisper under brightening eyes-
These are the ones, enter here,
These are of oldest wisdom,
These are the new wise-
In vain and vain the ages’ stir,
Whatever named, whatever willed,
In vain the ice, in vain the fire,
In vain are all the centuries.
In vain did the builders build.
THE BLIND PIPER
This is from a true story of a totally blind man
known to this writer who was sitting in his
own home and who grew very agitated during
a partial eclipse as if experiencing some
vision that could not be spoken about. I applied this
to the blind uilleann piper when an eclipse
disturbed his performing.
And sudden twilight empties day,
Mid-day dark and mid-night light,
The ring, the halo brightening.
And skies empty of wings, the cattle
In the field as a stone arrangement
Face to where their shadows fled
As the cycles of the world, the rhymes
The rhythms pause their dance.
Seated on his fallen trunk of oak
The blind piper’s fingers lock.
Midway through an old lament
The head rises from its downward way
As his blank eyes scan the heavens.
Images there, born of his long eclipse,
Images come in the tunes’ passion
Flare out of the blinded sight,
Flare out of the corona,
Into a sudden spasm of bliss.
But the moon is passing on,
And the piper’s elbows rhyme again
And fingers start their chanter dance.
Evening is following. Evening gone,
And the reel and jig and the slow air,
The drones’ pine, the drones’ throat,
Piping long past his bedtime hour,
Piping away far into the night.
CANTICLE OF BIRTH
From memories of watching
the heifer in the field giving birth to the calf.
The notion of a “passing over” represents
an advancing from one state to another, the fundamental
existence as experienced.
And we know well that solemn hour,
The crossing, the passing over.
We know, deeper than the deep of blood
The memory of a journey made
Far beyond the stirring of the sap,
That most distant order
Where ending and beginning touch.
And there as she stands facing east
Moan on moaning rise and rise
And the pant and heave is on
As hooves and nose appear
Out of the pain. A quiet falls.
The moments gather, and out of there
A roar arise and fill the void,
And as echoes follow, rumble away,
The newborn slides out unto the earth.
Now she faces to where it lies
Glistening in the dew of birth,
And it raise itself as the sun-flower
Turning to the morning sun,
Move, move toward the mother
And touch their heads together,
Intimate murmur, sound to sound,
Separated and returned.
WHO SPEAKS THE MYSTIC WRATH.
The poem identifies the dominant human urge that
instigates the endless conflicts and wars of humanity
and why what is termed “the rational” can
rarely intervene and prevent them. It asserts that the
dynamic involved is not of a blind will nor a will to
power nor to dominate nor any of the conventional interpretations
of the psychoanalysts or philosophers. These projections
only exist within the wider dynamic of the human drama
presented as the possession of Being. Factors such as
economic and territorial ambition, base aggression -
the usual reasons given for war- are in reality mere
aspects of this Possession.
It is the highest factor of the mystical that creates
decisions regarding conflict, not the conventional lowest
instinct, that the greatest human fear is the fear of
loss of Being- which is presented in the poem as the
mystic wrath. In this identification, the urge to war
and the urge to love are of the exact same dynamic of
the possession of Being.
The notion of the rational here does not refer to the
normal presentations of cognition and thinking as such
but to the decision making factor in times of extremity
when the mystical intensifies and fears heighten or
are heightened. This is the notion of the rational that
failed to prevent two world wars, failed to prevent
the Troubles and so on.
The refrain “But we were not sober then”
refers to the reflection in the lull after the event
on the overwhelming surges of their own nature.
At dawn the guns’ll bark.
The talking ways have filled their hour.
Last moment pleas, the scurrying work
Of diplomat and clerk are over
And the dam begins its spill,
And the dam walls free the flood.
Maybe only at an old age call
To move along the rows of dead
Might lips tremble, whisper pass-
Oh then? But we were not sober then.
Something set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.
It was marked from early times
That reason is a frail companion.
It was spoken how the measured tone
Could not quell the pipes and drums,
Yet no voice came to bring alive
That way, the boundless tender deed,
Boundless barbarity, the blindest love
And blindest rage, or what lone road
Might lead to there, some memory open,
Come from beyond where thought was born.
Who speaks the mystic wrath,
We the tribe, the tribe of Earth?
Who will tell the unspoken dread-
The vast loss of what possesses, all good,
All evil rooted to this ancestor?
Who has spoken the possession, the fire
And flare of the possessed, passionate
Into the passion spent? Then out of that
The chorus, the quiet, solemn, plaintive chorus-
Oh then? But we were not sober then.
Something set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.
Farewell then that mask of human nature
As the ages held, and the creature
Now openly appear, one after one
To make their judgment. No words are spoken,
Their faces set as a hermit’s ecstasy,
Set the chasm of the eagle’s eye
As they more and more inhale
The rising incense of their ritual,
And war it is. War is all.
The tidal surge won’t turn
Until its moon is spent.
Prayers float there, supplication
On the shore-bound swell
And rock and great rock shaken.
After, the seas, the shrunken penitent
Seas far out lap remorse-
Oh then? But we were not sober then.
Something set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.
I HAVE LIVED THROUGHOUT THIS SURGING
No matter what new insights or
discoveries are presented in whatever field of human
endeavor in the old boundary of thinking, things break
down when approaching projected absolutes. The traditional
presentations of the rational and the empirical cannot
encompass what exists to be resolved, that all projected
progress in the light of this represents a state of
more and more of less and less. The assertion here is
that all creative human endeavor is ultimately art,
that is, informal art as distinct from formal art –
music, literature, painting etc. In turn, all modes
of art are ultimately acts of oblation. This is the
notion of art as ultimate offering. Despite the vast
changes in this particular age- from the early fifties
to the present- nothing can satisfy my possession of
existence, that all intellectual striving moves into
rituals of song and dance, a prelude to oblation and
abandonment. The reference to Navan Fort (Eamhain Macha)
is to this same drama when the ancients ritually burnt
down their newly raised temple.
I have lived throughout this surging
From the horse and plough to Broadband.
I have smelled the burn of hoof on shod,
On wings of web I soared, I sped
Within this sixty year long rhyme,
And thought no age made such a stand,
None sat so proudly on their throne
Of all the ages known to man,
And the ancients gather on Navan Fort,
And temple pyre, and pounding heart.
I have travelled on this speeding
To hear an old one make their thought
That what I seek can not be found,
Or found, is not what’s sought.
And told again as a dying breath,
Told what’s blesséd, what I must bless-
Ancient Achilles tortoise path,
The more and more of less and less.
I have lived to watch the young
The dawn brighten and the evening fade.
I have lived to hear new stories told
Rhyming old ones, speak their bond,
And lived to know those flowings made
Still leave untouched the deeper flow
That full of age I still move behind
Stamping horses pulling the plough,
And so, I’ve fled the fields
For the far hills of wild song.
I have said farewell, farewell again
And joined the singing, piping throng,
Man on the spoons and the bodhran girl,
And watched the dancers drum their reel,
Fiddler, harper in full abandon
Far into the night, far into the moon,
As the ancients gather on Navan Fort.
And temple pyre. And pounding heart.
I MET WITH COLLINS IN HIS OLD DAYS
(Michael Collins. 1890-1922. Irish patriot. Shot dead
in the Irish Civil War at 32)
The fantasia poem tells of Michael Collins as an
old man being paid a visit by a stranger. As Collins
rests in his armchair staring out the window he is reminded
of the far off deeds when he was in his prime. But the
vagaries of age, of lengthy years and loneliness have
long since drained away the youthful certainties, the
sense of purpose and bonds of brotherhood.
He is reminded of how often he wished he had died at
the zenith of his achievement in bringing the war of
independence into the Truce and so joining the hero
comrades of the preceding years. Maybe human age is
an unnatural thing, he has thought, an aberration of
existence with no purpose but age for the sake of age,
that it is anti heroic. He is reminded that his qualities
of leadership could not have been made for such a drift,
such a disintegration of great ideals.
Surely, as in the affirmations of the myths and legends
of the ages- to which the stranger tells him he intimately
belongs- there is an earlier authentic dynamic of existence
that naturally bred heroes and heroines where all was
worked out in the intensity of people in their youthful
prime, that death is a natural consequence of such supreme
deeds, and entry into the afterlife natural to their
The stranger asserts to Collins that more and more he
longs to be with those comrades who were of that order
of things, that he was only made for the heroic. The
stranger reflects a special position he might have held
in an afterlife of transforming into heroes all those
innocent youth who had died in wars and conflicts not
of their making. In his old age now, Collins falls asleep
at night with all these thoughts, and they awaken him
in the early morning.
I met with Collins in his old days
Moving in slow steps across the room.
I watched him lower into an armchair
And gather breath, and move a gaze
And the clear eyes enter a settled stare.
It was late evening. Autumn had come,
Leaf by leaf outside on the windborne trek,
The bare sycamore, and the baring oak.
And there you are, I softly said.
My travel over now. My journey made.
I see you firm on the window scene
Where the early days make apparition,
The early days parade their promise,
That turn of head, the firm command, the rise
Of laughter at the end of day
Bring lofty purpose to a people’s journey,
A nd tell that of all who strode
You were the one whose countenance
And call aroused the ancient banquet.
You were the one to stir that old romance
They full of their deeds and rhymes,
The gentle way, the warrior poise and strut
To meet the tear of Deirdre with a tear,
And meet the fiery eye of Finn with fire.
Then that rogue arrival. The entry
Of the reign of age. Now under its stare
Soul and body lapse into the disease
As old clarities stall, wilt and wither,
Old stirring ways empty in the dreary day
That nothing now heroic lives, nor dies,
A tune unknown in the early drafting,
A tune not natural to nature’s song.
But to have gone at the blessed hour.
Gone in the blinding dawn of the deed,
The point where the bud gives birth
To the blossom, to be of there,
The holy place where deed and death
Embrace. And you slowly raise your head.
And your eyes dampen. I watch a tear
Follow, anoint your cheek and disappear.
Out of the hum of a gathered throng
Now hear the clamor of your name. All those
Who followed the bugle of a cause,
The millions in their chorus- “Raise us! Raise
You fresh into your martyr bliss
Raise up our tragedy into song!”
And you inhale the vast beseeching storm.
And breath out a healing breath upon them.
As one still in pining for a long parted
Lover, the distant years move ever closer.
Comrade after comrade, moving there,
Ever fresh of face, head by proud
Head follow into your sleeping time.
And when the early hours come
Your watch begin, watch the twilight brighten,
Watch their golden chariots cross the dawn.
I’d better go. It will soon be dark.
The day is closing on the baring oak.
And there from a flame in the hearth fire
See sudden shades of features in your prime,
And age returning in the lowering flare,
And breathing rising as a rise of dream.
I’ll leave you there. I’ll gently close
I’ll say good night to you. And say no more.
(On the arrival of the last ice age)
Cold winds from the north grew wilder, puckered
The face and flared hair. Loaded bush and tree
Flew comet tail and bent. For long before we
Had heard the whinge of animal and bird.
It is the ice again! It is the ice
Again! Something has provoked the long peace,
Something has rekindled an old passion,
Swollen, risen out on the horizon.
It is the conqueror again. She tramps
To war again, she marches on, taking
All in her stride, growth and rising, old ramps
And barriers of former battle, ring
And guarded rampart, then piles up and slumps
To silence. That was the second coming.
(The gestation of the drumlins)
For an age she stayed and all was at rest.
For an age the fallen heavens covered her,
The young and old terrain, the spoils of war
Taken down, carried into her conquest.
And there all lay, prone land
and supine land,
And there the features vanished, the bodies
Broken, grinded down and all that remained
The granite skulls, the silent centuries.
But a vague twilight entered. And the sun
Awoke, the east assembled full of fire
As motion broke the long stillness and soon
Shapes in the void of ice began to stir,
Began to rise, ever closer, one by one,
The crowning heads, all ready to be born.
(The arrival of the drumlins)
And head by head they come, the drumlin brood,
Wet and smooth as they enter down the dawn.
The empty mother moves, moves her slow road
To make return to the distant ocean.
It is a naked place, echo empty.
The sun dries off the dripping and warms up
The body as new breezes moving free
Kiss and whisper there, dance to their new step.
And the drumlins settle, and their
Or gaunt are filled in the mould, in the cast
The ages dealt them. Through mist and rainfall
They tell their tales, speak winds from thaw and frost,
Telling sights from shadows, slopes
from the stream.
They called out their names before we named them.
The Neolithic monuments of Ireland such as at Bru
Na Boine involving Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth and the
various stone arrangements throughout the country represent
perhaps the earliest known affirmations of the ancient
people in their confrontation with existence. The case
is made that the mode of early conscious knowing was
the purest of all human knowing and intimate with the
inherited instincts and memories of nature, that the
impulse to create was as that of the inherited memory
of the wild bird and animal. The sonnet begins with
the return of the full plumage of nature following the
retreat of the last ice age and the immediate establishment
of human ritual and creativity, the trapping of the
cycles of the sun and moon in the merging of consciousness
and instinct. The dynamic of such creativity is presented
in the concluding couplet.
All is settled down now. The hills
And grown rich in their deciduous flows,
The beech and ash, the larch and the wild rush
Merge season easily. Snow kisses and goes.
But turn of day broke our fathers’ wander,
A stir of memory follow to the east
To reach out stone by stone and the rook’s stare,
The lair and burrow eyes, the den and nest.
And in the bloom of nightfall under moon
And meteor and under star, memory
Stirred again, moved out from its hidden way,
Moved a flowing to greet the eager dawn.
So day presented night with measured work.
And night lit up the places day made dark
In the fantasia sonnet below, Patrick Kavanagh longs
to be released from the prison of his art, that the
relentless inner demand to shape his experiences of
the world around him into verse, to be aithful to his
calling, is not rewarded with the expected uplift of
acknowledgement. His gift has become a thankless struggle,
that there is an unnatural imbalance between the lofty
calling and the indifferent response and the ever empty
He decides to take himself to the mid- winter dawn at
Newgrange that its great flaring consume his old grief
of neglect, raise him into the mystical experience,
and he move in bliss among the ancients.
Weary of the drumlin. Tired of all
Weary of verb and noun and rhyming feet
On the lone road. Weary of the bare page,
The waiting pen, the daily, daily siege.
Will no release arrive to end this curse?
Consume this scourge of the soul, verse on verse
Demanding to be born, and strain and sweat
Mating word with word, line to line, and yet
No honour there, no praise, no thanks, no glow,
No lift of heart. But I’ll be moving now,
Follow mid-winter twilight to enter
Where the ancients are, to stand attention
There, waiting there, that an old pain gather
Its grief, die into the flare of the dawn.
I have no written evidence that I
Had fathers before my great grandfather,
All my lineage represented by
An entry in the parish register.
Beyond this, I think on a woman bent
Across her stick, and at her side a man
Buckled down, both staring outward, both gaunt,
Fix their eyes on me in a steady burn.
Things done leave things undone as
Leave a trail. I waited on some words to flare,
A solemn voice maybe condemn or warn,
But no lips moved, nor no face softened there.
And then the fear. That stare go on
Features as they spoke before words were born.
The apparition tells of the ancients’ presence
at the Navan, seat of the High Kings of Ulster and place
of Irish myth and legend, that their great oblation,
the ritual burning down of their newly created temple
was the consummating act of their lives of noble deeds.
They are not to be thought of or identified by earthly
bones from excavations, but of a living presence both
indirectly and directly experienced by the senses. The
direct presence is experienced through nature in certain
smells of things sacred to them such as freshly broken
hazel wood and fresh spring water at the dawn well.
In sight and hearing we are drawn indirectly to what
has happened and is gone.
I thought of a great shape on Navan Fort
Whose eyes slowly opened as of the lock
Of a long age. I felt a heart pulsate,
Mouth like a sea shell move, begin to speak;
"We are the first of Ulster, we warriors
And holy ones. We are the first of all
To raise up the songs of wars and lovers,
Who stepped a god’s print, taking the gods’
And burn, burn and fire, fire! Dig no ring
To reach us, but watch for us, watch for us,
This voice that’s heard before the listening,
This face that vanishes under focus,
Watch for us, watch for us, our scent, our smell
In cracked hazel, water at the dawn well.”
My map of the world hangs in Mercator.
Stretched Siberia, vast Antarctica,
Contracted lands along the equator
At South America and Africa.
Slow light in winter softened the contour
All along the edges of the ocean,
Rising, fading, rising into my stare
In the image of a crucified man.
Those swollen polar extremities stretched
Into the wide meridian drew out
At the centre more and more as I watched
Land and ocean exchange the fading light.
But dark always came before I might
All retract to its globularity.
The gravity of age is draining out
Thinking ways that once rendered full delight
In younger times, thought then arousing thought
Before those lovers parted with their lot.
Less wise now being a wiser man, I
No flag on any hill and am content
To journey as the eel, to take the flow
As the starling gathering, older now,
Full of migration and autumn moorings,
Of things rising to go and falling things,
Full of all that, of valley ways, of hill,
Long gentle soundings, long, long cry, long call.
The gravity of age is draining dry,
Awaiting wings to land with, wings to fly.
( To totally purge the land and its history
and begin afresh)
I think of a white haired figure
Bent over Ireland
With their acupuncture needles
In the hood of the left hand.
Woman or man under
The shawl of fallen locks
I watch slow bony fingers
Insert into a drumlin col
Between Armagh and Monaghan,
And raising a head and lowering,
Breathing coming as a sleeping child,
Implant, slowly, deeply
Into joints of rock and bog. Then
In the tongue of the Bann
Entering Lough Neagh
Pierce firmly throatward,
Needles set along the Boyne,
A needle entered in Kinsale
And one deep at Ferrycarrig.
Again I watch the bony fingers aim
Poised above Slieve Gullion
Between the Ring and mountain,
And all day slaved away,
All night under the moon
And out of the dawn hour’s entry
Oak came and beech and hazel,
Ash and sycamore and elm
Sprouting at the filling east,
Filling hollow, crowding hill,
And away at an eye’s meander,
Far off at the river’s side
A rough sailing boat
Smaller and smaller there
Departing on the Foyle tide.
I HAVE NOTHING FOR YOUR GRIEF BUT MY
Back in the late fifties, a neighbour man visited
my grandparents at their home in Keady to tell them
that a former girlfriend of his who had emigrated to
America some months previous had been killed in an accident,
that he had never got over her emigration and was now
more distraught than ever. My grandmother, a traditional
singer, said nothing as the neighbor spoke, but presently,
began to sing an old lament “Our ship is ready.”
He afterwards sat and talked and later went home seemingly
quite soothed and contented. I imagined the singer as
a spinner and weaver of the ways of history who through
their journeys felt the sufferings of the landscape
in the ice ages and earlier trials by fire, felt the
joys of life returning, and spun threads from these
traumas and uplifts of history. At the end of their
travellings they wove their findings into song with
its natural healing powers. This is the essence of what
she told him in her singing-
I have nothing for your grief but my
I have nothing for your tears
But the towel of my verse,
An old weaving tender born,
An old weave solemn made
Of wanderings, of journey ways.
I spun the drone of the four winds,
I spun yarn from the land’s refrain
In flares of lava, molten run,
And the melt of ice, the drumlin birth
And dance of growth on the bare hills.
I gathered, I carried these,
And brought all to my loom
And my song come at the day’s leave,
My song appear, my weave arrive.
And my song will follow you,
My verse come as a rhyme of wings
Crossing the brightening east
To bring its calming, spread the balm.
And even if it be a parting way,
If one must go, must heed that call,
My verse be in their spirit’s travel,
Will watch and guard their grave.
On layers of earth, of fallen leaf
I’ll spread a layer of verse,
And my song come, my song be there,
My song come and cover all.
SOMETIMES I LONG TO BE.
Sometimes I long to be
In some Precambrian valley
Under the moon's early face.
Somewhere there look down
And watch her shadow trace
Along the eager dust and stone,
She, moving on the display
Of forming Plough and Milky Way.
Somewhere there, somewhere then
In the barren moonlit valley
Hear fiddlers and piping men,
Hear their reel and slow air
Ever loudening, ever rising free,
This one’s cran, that one's slur,
All the familiar styles
Along the moon filled miles.
And that fresh lunar stare!
The unblemished countenance!
Her full glow across the trance
Of night, hour after hour,
Now moving low, now descend
To touch the sleeping land.
And I break into a prayer.
And I long to be there.
Sometimes I long to be
Among the long departed.
Sometimes, so close, so far,
Draw lowered eye and head
Toward the abyss of galaxy,
To the plough, to the pole star.
And pipes and fiddle rise again.
And dancers in the rising moon.
And high above Slieve Gullion,
Sudden over Drumbunion
And the Breague and Mullyash,
Away above the fields of Brackley
The Himalayas soared
As a vast August cumulus.
It was around the noon hour
That they appeared to us
Rising and rising there,
Chomolúngma, Cho Óyu,
Mákalú and Dhaulagíri,
Nanga Párbat, Kangchenjúnga,
And the dark stare of Lhótse Shar,
The white anger of Annapurna.
Then the south wind strengthened
And the great peaks began to move
Thinning one after the other
And vanished into the sky.
By evening, in dark blue clarity
Our rounded, settled land,
Born again, appeared again,
Risen into the cloudless vault.
THE PIPER OF FAIR HEAD
The young piper is so distraught following the death
of his wife that he moves to the rim of Fair Head in
Antrim to play a lament that might call out her spirit
to meet with him. He faces toward the Mull in the late
evening and pipes away into the night. Presently the
lunar dawn makes a vague light in the low east and in
his state he thinks it is her appearance. Now half blind
in a flow of tears and flow of moonlight he is overwhelmed
and falls to the ground with his arms around the pipes
and dies. At this, pipers from all over the land gather
around him continuing the lament and they solemnly raise
him and bear him away into the breaking dawn.
And he stood on the prow of Fair Head
As evening twilight gathered the night,
And under star by star appearing
And a heart stricken beyond healing
Made drones and chanter raise the call.
Away in the low east after a time
The vague light of the lunar dawn
Began to blossom as the moon arose,
And the grey Mull risen on the grey sea,
Rathlin awake and risen, and there
And as the full orb lit the waters
In a brightening sheen out toward him,
As the blur of tears and blur of light
Danced into the lament, the piping ended.
He sank to the ground, and breathed no more.
And from all around him where he lay
Arms embracing the fallen pipes
A bloom of moonlit pipers came
And circled there, took up the tune,
And piping joined from across the sea
As the great lament filled up the night,
Filled the early shades of daybreak.
And they raised him, bore him away
Piping into their solemn hour,
Píping ín the fírst of éast,
Píping óut the mórning stár.
O SWAN UPON OUR GENTLE WATER
(The depth of knowing in nature and the related
early human intuition that life on earth is come of
the relationship with the lunar body.)
O swan upon our gentle water
Where will yóu be in the morning,
Where will yóu be when we rise-
Winding through the polar air
Far, far above the ocean,
You who ate our crumb, our morsel,
You who sailed beneath our eyes.
And what is stirring in that head
To make your wings unsettle
And stretch out their fullest span,
And your white shape soar away
And blacken into the dawn?
Then eel arriving in our river
Who can know your secret journey,
Speak what sea-men tell of shoals
Speeding beneath the speeding prow,
And silver flashes, silver glow,
And tell of tales that all are come
From far beyond where sails are filled,
And know neither the pole or plough
But move as the moon in racing clouds?
And here you are, and here you were,
And river filling where you’ve been.
And river filling where you’re gone.
O virgin mother of the night
You that stare past the day’s advance,
You that pile up the oceans
And wash the shores of the world,
We watch your pale countenance
Stare in profile at the night’s abyss,
And turn earthward in your full face
The mother turning to the child.
We all are under your grief.
You know us all, you know us all,
The barren, fertile moon,
The dead moon of life.
(In memory of the Celtic victory of 1967. A framed
copy of this was presented to Glasgow Celtic by the
Irish Supporters clubs in 2012 marking the forty fifth
anniversary of the victory.)
Because the Lisbon hour was taken
Parkhead is changed forever.
By day, by dark, by morning star
The deed that raised the peerless crown
Spreads its light along the way.
Their names are there, the names are read
They who sailed on fortune's tide,
They who made return in glory-
Gemmell and McNeill and Johnstone,
Craig and Murdoch, Wallace, Auld and Stein,
Fallon Sean and Fallon John and Simpson,
Lennox, Clark and Chambers, all in line.
And who can compare with them
That leader and his home made men,
Who can overcome their fame?
Great as deeds at Bannockburn,
Great as any Scotland sent,
Recall again their do and dare,
Recall the wave on wave defiant,
The surge of that relentless hour.
And time can never take the day,
And time can never take the dawn,
As one by one they fall away,
And one by one they rise again.
IRISH PIPERS! KNOW YOUR CALLING.
Dedicated to the memory of Uilleann piper Jack Makem,
my father, from Derrynoose, Co Armagh 1919-1988, in
celebration of the centenary of his birth. He was the
eldest son of Peter and Sarah Makem of Victoria St.
in Keady. A member of the Keady Pipe Band from the late
1930's he bought a set of Uilleann pipes from a traveller
Johnny Doran in Keady Fair in 1948 and taught himself
to play the instrument.
Irish pipers. Know your calling.
Know the deep of your belonging,
You the chosen one, raised up
To be a prophet of the land.
Irish pipers, know your art.
Remember that the drones and chanter,
Bag and bellows, regulators
Are come of the passion of the people
To reach the deeps and distances,
The wood, the bore, the double reed
To shape the great pilgrimage,
The tenor drone of the world’s pain,
The base drone of the world’s
Remember that. Remember more.
Before you enter your melody
Before your wrist release the harmonies
The inner rhythms must gather there,
The piper’s passion impose its quest
Into the flesh and bone of the tune
That out of there and risen
In a sudden octave soar
The full sigh of the world’s soul,
The mystical abandonment.
Remember. And all return
To the arms of the drones,
The return from where you’ve been,
Out from the highest arc of the
Out from the deepest draught of earth.
THE MIST IS ON SLIEVE GULLION
The mist is on Slieve Gullion,
Morning mist at the break of dawn
Moving under morning star.
The winds that gather there,
The north wind’s early breath
Is sudden milk, is sudden cloth
When the first stretch of day
Touches the cold, dark body.
The mist is on Slieve Gullion,
Mist returning in the evening
When the cleared head clouds again
To the south west song,
And the song come spilling tale
Of wild deed and solemn deed,
Whisperings, and horn call,
And bearings for the dead.
And the cloth of day is fading,
Fading into the falling dark
As sleep spreads out its wing
And dreaming comes to stir awake,
And we watch from our early Ring
In woolen weave, in weave of silk,
The mountain mouths of morning
Feeding at the dawn milk.
END Section 1.