PRIMROSE by Patrick Kavanagh | from Complete Poems

“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.”

THERE WAS A TIME . . .

In the dim, silent church

A glow of votive lamps

Fluttering blue and gold and red

Whispered prayers in corner shrines

Beneath the outstretched hands

Of painted saints

Beads clicking, slowly told

Sundays burst in glory

Sweet choir lifting voice

The Truth sang in my mouth

I filled my eyes with bright

And lustrous threads

The golden flame of candles

Veiling mysteries at the altar

The heavy scent of flowers

Inhaled security

And a weightless peace

In certain knowledge of hereafter

Our hearts were warm, absolved 

Beloved of our maker

And safe in the house of God.

Fairies: The Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats – an excerpt

I have read many reviews of books about, or including, fairies; they put me in mind of Yeat’s poem “The Stolen Child” which he wrote in Co Sligo, in Glencar (original Irish name Glenn an Chairthe – the glen of the standing stone). I was there many years ago; it’s a magic, beautiful place, so green and full of water. Here is an excerpt from the poem:

Where the wave of moonlight glosses

The dim grey sands with light,

Far off by furthest Rosses

We foot it all the night,

Weaving olden dances,

Mingling hands and mingling glances

Till the moon has taken flight;

To and fro we leap

And chase the frothy bubbles,

While the world is full of troubles

And is anxious in its sleep.

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you

can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes

From the hills above Glen-Car,

In pools among the rushes

That scarce could bathes a star,

We seek for slumbering trout

And whispering in their ears

Give them unquiet dreams;

Leaning softly out

From ferns that drop their tears

Over the young streams.

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you

can understand.

Alter Ego

Her edges blurred

With layers of cloth

Pink and pinky-brown

And dusty blue

Old velvet, bits of lace

Threaded ribbons

Round her skirts

A trail of sweetness

Follows every move

Of hyacinth and lily

Minions flock

When she lifts a lazy hand

Starved for a smile

They do her bidding

Grateful to be asked

Undressed she’d be

A rosy Renoir nude

A little plump

Pink-apple cheeked

With rolling thighs

And tumbling auburn hair

If I was her

I wouldn’t dress at all

Ditch the lace and velvet

But I’m not her.

Ulster Poets: Irish Hare by John McGuckian

First, I should say that in Irish Folklore the hare is a shapeshifter and plays a part in many tales.

Just around the time

You might be hoping for a sign,

Unconsciously,

The Hare appeared

Very far down in my garden

Like an omen of goodwill;

Of the hereafter;

That life had a meaning

Beyond;

The hare came up to my window,

And I was startled too.

Death had struck.

She lay like an old doll

On a sofa.

The family gathered around

And I could sense their fear:

Her he comes!

Wasn’t I the soft one,

In tears.

And isn’t it in my garden

The hare appears.

Ulster Poems – An Easter Sequence by W.R.Rodgers 1909 – 1969

It is always the women who are the Watchers

And Keepers of life, they guard our exits

And our entrances. They are both tomb and womb,

End and beginning. Bitterly they bring forth

And bitterly take back the light they gave.

The last to leave and still the first to come.

They circle us like sleep or like the grave.

Earth is their element, and in it lies

The seed and silence of the lighted skies,

The seasons with their fall and slow uprise,

Man with his sight and militant surmise.

It is always the women who are the Watchers

And Wakeners . . .

Jeremiah

Grey church humped in dusk

We huddle, linked

Wispy rain-curled fringes

Cold fingers

Avoid the avid glances

Of the neighbours

Here is the hearse

The priest in white, hand aloft

Accustomed to the rites

Calls him Gerard – but

His name was Jeremiah

Strange cousins

Twice and thrice removed

Clamour to shake hands

And kiss

Anticipating whiskey

He’d have hated this.