Only when reading a post online before lunch did I realize that today was World Poetry Day. It is a day that would provide inspiration for a walking tour of Dublin for there can be few cities with so many poetic associations.
The tour might have visited Kavanagh beside the Grand Canal for a spoken or sung rendition of On Raglan Road.
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.
From the bank of the Grand Canal, a walk to Merrion Square would have brought an encounter with Oscar Wilde, whose works include Requiescat
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone
She is at rest.
Then there might have been a wander through Saint Stephen’s Green to visit Tom Kettle who was eviscerated in France on 9th September 1916.
In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,—
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.
On to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for some lines from Jonathan Swift, A Description of Morning seeming appropriate:
Now hardly here and there a hackney-coachAppearing, show’d the ruddy morn’s approach.Now Betty from her master’s bed had flown,And softly stole to discompose her own.The slip-shod ‘prentice from his master’s doorHad par’d the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.Now Moll had whirl’d her mop with dext’rous airs,Prepar’d to scrub the entry and the stairs.The youth with broomy stumps began to traceThe kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep;Till drown’d in shriller notes of “chimney-sweep.”Duns at his lordship’s gate began to meet;And brickdust Moll had scream’d through half a street.The turnkey now his flock returning sees,Duly let out a-nights to steal for fees.The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands;And schoolboys lag with satchels in their hands.
If time allowed one might have gone to Kilmainham Gaol to read Francis Ledwidge’s Lament for Thomas McDonagh, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising executed by the British.
He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain.
Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.
But when the dark cow leaves the moor,
And pastures poor with greedy weeds,
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.
Crossing the river to stand at the GPO would be necessary to read the lines of Yeats’ Easter 1916, but if all the solemnity and death is too much, one could wander up to the Royal Canal and sing the Auld Triangle before concluding with the literary wisdom of Brendan Behan who was once asked to describe the difference between poetry and prose. He replied,
“There was a young man named Rollocks,
who worked for Ferrier Pollocks.
As he walked on the Strand.
With his girl by the hand.
The tide came up to his knees.
“Now that’s prose,” he continued. “If the tide had been in, it would have been poetry.”