Irish Poems


Irish Poems is a treasury of poetry from the Emerald Isle, stretching back fourteen centuries.

From the romantic ballad to the rebel song, from devotional Christian verse to revivals of ancient Celtic myth, poetry has long been Ireland?s most eloquent response to its turbulent and colorful history. Irish Poems gives us a dazzling selection from a long and distinguished poetic tradition, ranging from the earliest Gaelic bards up to the present. Organized around such themes as ...

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Irish Poems is a treasury of poetry from the Emerald Isle, stretching back fourteen centuries.

From the romantic ballad to the rebel song, from devotional Christian verse to revivals of ancient Celtic myth, poetry has long been Ireland’s most eloquent response to its turbulent and colorful history. Irish Poems gives us a dazzling selection from a long and distinguished poetic tradition, ranging from the earliest Gaelic bards up to the present. Organized around such themes as politics, religion, Gaelic culture, the Irish landscape, and matters of the heart, the poems collected here come from a wide range of writers old and new, including such literary giants as Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Samuel Beckett, Louis MacNeice, Patrick Kavanagh, Paul Muldoon, Evan Boland, Seamus Heaney, and many more.

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  • Maeve Binchy - Irish Poems
    Maeve Binchy - Irish Poems  

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307594983
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 681,304
  • Product dimensions: 4.40 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew McGuire was born in Belfast and is a lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He has published widely on both Irish and Scottish literature.
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Read an Excerpt

From the Preface by Matthew McGuire

Out of the argument with others we make rhetoric; out of the argument with ourselves we make poetry. So said Ireland's most famous poet, W. B. Yeats. And it is poetry, rather than prose, that is seen as providing the most sustained and meaningful response to Ireland's turbulent history. From the romantic ballad to the rebel song, Irish poetry has been 'involved', to borrow a local euphemism, in mediating and mitigating histories of loyalty and loss. For some Irish writers poetry has been a place of self-reflection and self-doubt, a moment of quietude amid the deafening roar of partisan politics and all its bloody consequences. Argument, altercation, accommodation; the leitmotifs of many of the poems gathered in this volume. Over this aspect of Irish poetry preside the towering figures of William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney. Their most famous work emerged in response to the collapse of Irish society, Yeats during the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and Heaney during the outbreak of the Northern Irish Troubles in 1969. Ironically, if civil war made civil hands unclean, it also unearthed a fertile ground for the poetic imagination. Under the heading of 'Political Matters' this book features attempts by Yeats, Heaney and others to interrogate the past, realize the present, and realign the co-ordinates of Ireland's future.

Dating back over fourteen hundred years, Irish poetry has its roots in two traditions: the devotional verse of the early Christian church and the long lyric poem of the bard, or seanchaidhe, the carrier of communal memory. Religion has always been part of Ireland's historical and cultural makeup, both a blessing and a curse, the pathway to another world and an obstacle on the road to renewal. Under the aegis of 'Religious Matters' this book features a number of attempts, both ancient and modern, to map the landscape of Ireland's theological inheritance.

'Gaelic Matters' turns its attention to that other vital source of Irish poetry, the Irish language. Up until the eighteenth century Irish poetry was primarily a Gaelic affair. The deep well of Gaelic culture, its steady decline and the catastrophic effects of the Irish famine all feature in this volume. There is an extract from Brian Merriman's eighteenth-century epic, The Midnight Court. The high point of modern Gaelic poetry, it is an epic masterpiece, deeply wrought and darkly comic. The book also features the interest in ancient Celtic myth, including the stories of Cuchulain and Deirdre, by various Anglo-Irish writers, not least W. B. Yeats himself.

One might be forgiven for thinking that Irish poetry is on long meditation in a time of civil war. The remaining sections of the book offer a welcome antidote to such mistaken notions. 'Place Matters' includes a diverse set of responses to the experience of the various Irish landscapes, both rural and urban. It explores what it means to come from, and reside in, a particular place. 'Experience Matters' charts the ways in which Irish writers, from the eighteenth century to the present day, deploy the rigours of poetic form to illuminate and transform the everyday world. 'Love Matters' concludes this selection, recording an array of Irish responses to what is the most popular and recurrent theme in the whole of poetry.

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Table of Contents


St Columbanus
   A Boat Song
Anon.   Monastic Poem
Anon.   Hermit’s Song
Anon.   Saint Patrick’s Breastplate
Austin Clarke   Penal Law
Denis Devlin   Ank’hor Vat
W. R. Rodgers   Lent
Tom Paulin   Desertmartin
Peter Fallon   The Herd
John Hewitt   from Freehold: from The Lonely Heart


Fear Flatha Ó Gnimh
   from The Passing of the Poets
Mathghamlain Ó Hifearnáin   My Son, Forsake Your Art                     
Dàibhí Ó Bruadair   For the Family of Cúchonnacht Ó Dálaigh 
Aogán Ó Rathaille   The Brightest of the Bright                 
Brian Merriman   from The Midnight Court     
Antoine Raifterirí  ‘I am Raifeirí, the poet’
Sir Samuel Ferguson   Deirdre’s Lament for the Sons of Usnach
William Allingham   The Fairies
W. B. Yeats   Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea
Seàn Ó Ríordáin   Claustrophobia
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill   Miraculous Grass                                      

Fearghal Óg MacWard   from The Flight of the Earls, 1607
Anon.   The Croppy Boy
Anon.   The Shan Van Vocht
Anon.   The Orange Lily
James Clarence Mangan   Kathaleen Ny-Houlahan          
Thomas Davis   Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill
Thomas Davis   A Nation Once Again
Robert Dwyer Joyce   The Wind that Shakes the Barley
W. B. Yeats   September 1913
W. B. Yeats   The Wild Swans at Coole
Seamus Heaney   Requiem for the Croppies
Seamus Heaney   Punishment
Seamus Heaney   from Whatever You Say Say Nothing
Seamus Heaney   from The Cure at Troy
Derek Mahon   A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanàn   Deaths and Engines
Paul Muldoon   Lunch with Pancho Villa 
Paul Muldoon   Anseo
Paul Muldoon   Cuba
Alan Gillis   Progress
Macdara Woods   Seconds Out


Jonathan Swift   Holyhead. Sept. 25, 1727
Oliver Goldsmith   from The Deserted Village
Thomas Moore   ‘Dear Harp of my Country!’
W. B. Yeats   The Lake Isle of Innisfree
Patrick Kavanagh   Epic
Louis MacNeice   Belfast
Louis MacNeice   Dublin
Peter St John   The Fields of Athenry
Seamus Heaney   Anahorish
Michael Longley   The Linen Industry
Derek Mahon   Glengormley
Thomas McCarthy   The Standing Trains
Ciaran Carson   Belfast Confetti

Samuel Thompson   To a Hedgehog
James Orr   from The Irish Cottier’s Death and Burial
Thomas Moore   ‘’Tis the last rose of summer’
James Clarence Mangan   Dark Rosaleen
James Clarence Mangan   The Nameless One
James Clarence Mangan   Good Counsel             
Oscar Wilde   from The Ballad of Reading Gaol
Francis Ledwidge   June
W. B. Yeats   The Stolen Child
W. B. Yeats   Down by the Salley Gardens
W. B. Yeats   To a Wealthy Man Who Promised a Second 
                      Subscription to the Dublin Municipal Gallery if It 
                      were Proved the People Wanted Pictures
W. B. Yeats   An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
W. B. Yeats   The Second Coming
W. B. Yeats   Sailing to Byzantium
James Joyce  Ecce Puer
Patrick Kavanagh  Memory of My Father
Patrick Kavanagh  Prelude
Samuel Beckett   Gnome
Thomas Kinsella   Chrysalides
John Montague   ‘Like dolmens round my childhood, the old people’
John Montague   11 rue Daguerre
Michael Hartnet   There Will be a Talking
Richard Murphy   Seals at High Island
Louis MacNeice   Snow
Louis MacNeice   Wolves
Michael Longley   In Memoriam
Seamus Heaney   Mid-Term Break
Seamus Heaney   from Clearances 
Seamus Heaney   The Underground
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanàn   London
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanàn   So She Looked, in that Company
Eavan Boland   In Her Own Image
Eavan Boland   Night Feed
Eavan Boland   Nocturne
Ciaran Carson   Turn Again
Ciaran Carson   The Exiles’ Club
Medbh McGuckian   The ‘Singer’
Medbh McGuckian   The Flower Master
Medbh McGuckian   The Sitting
Paul Muldoon   Quoof
Paul Muldoon   Symposium
Colette Bryce   The Full Indian Rope Trick
Alan Gillis   The Ulster Way
Nick Laird   Poetry

J. M. Synge   ‘Is it a month’
W. B. Yeats   He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
W. B. Yeats   No Second Troy
Padraic Colum   She Moved Through the Fair
Patrick Kavanagh   On Raglan Road
James Simmons   The Archaeologist
Paul Durcan   The Haulier’s Wife Meets Jesus on the Road Near Moone
Louis MacNeice   Mayfly
Medbh McGuckian   On Not Being Your Lover
Sinead Morrissey   & Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Leontia Flynn   Come Live with Me

Index of First Lines

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