“Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, said I, to find
One small page of Truth’s manuscript made clear.
I looked at Christ transfigured without fear –
The light was very beautiful and kind,
And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed
I read it through the lenses of a tear.
And then my sight grew dim, I could not see
The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,
And there was but the shadow of a tree
Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.”
I met the devil too,
And the adjectives by which I would describe him are these:
He was a man the world would appoint to a Board,
He would be on the list of invitees for a bishop’s garden party,
He would look like an artist.
He was the fellow who wrote in newspapers about music,
Got into a rage when someone laughed;
He was serious about unserious things;
You had to be careful about his inferiority complex
For he was conscious of being uncreative.
These two poems together always make me laugh. Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), the Monaghan poet who settled in Dublin and wrote so many beautiful and wonderful poems.
I was at a bus stop in Dawson Street in Dublin when Brendan Kennelly walked past me:
Hello, the poet!
I called; he turned and smiled and
blew the sweetest kiss.
Derek Mahon, Belfast man, died yesterday aged 78. He was considered one of the most innovative Irish poets in the sixties and seventies. This poem has been widely quoted since the arrival of Covid 19:
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, and there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.