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Mar 2018

- for Noreen -

Spring throws
a switch

and turns the flowers on
even the old stars come

to see
the newest season

and how
the world is getting on.

The blue ball
keeps on spinning

and we haven't fallen
off yet.

Birds keeping on singing
trying to tell us how

it is
but we listen?
The title "Anois teacht an Earraigh" is from an Irish poem Cill Aodáin by the blind poet Antaine Ó Raifteirí (1784-1835). ;One of 9 children who caught the blinded him and killed the others. One of the last things he ever saw was the other children laid out dead.

He lived by playing his fiddle and performing his songs and poems in the mansions of the Anglo-Irish gentry.

His work draws on the forms and idiom of Irish poetry, and although it is regarded as marking the end of the old literary tradition, Ó Raifteirí and his fellow poets did not see themselves in this way.Raftery was lithe and spare in build and not very tall but he was very strong and considered a good wrestler. He always wore a long frieze coat and corduroy breeches.

All the Irish of my generation would have learnt this at school. The rousing Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile has almost the same line but it is the coming of summer and I often conflated them...whether it was the coming of spring or summer!  Ah well sure ya can have everything.

Such are the wee little things knocking about inside the head of an Irishman like myself...can't be helped!

I remember passing a little school one day and this wafted out in a myriad of little off-key voices and it was as if little flowers of sound flourished there in mid-air. It was a thing of fragile beauty and I plucked it from the Spring breeze and tucked it behind my mind. 40 years later it resurfaced and made itself known to the old man I had become.

But my now the world had gone on and it was a different Spring that wanted me to put it into words.

.But as we Irish have it: " Bíonn dhá insint ar scéal agus dhá leagan déag ar amhrán!"

Or to English it for you: " There are two tellings to every story, and twelve versions of every song!"

This is my version with its pale and almost see-through hope with only the Irish title hanging on in there.

This is the great Frank O'Connor's translation.

Now with the springtime
The days will grow longer
And after St. Bride's day'
My sail I'll let go
I put my mind to it,
And I never will linger
Till I find myself back
In the County Mayo.

"Anois teacht an Earraigh
beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh,
Is tar eis na féil Bríde
ardóigh mé mo sheol.
Go Coillte Mach rachad
ní stopfaidh me choíche
Go seasfaidh mé síos
i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo."

His most famous poem is his Is Mise Raifteirí ...again a beloved staple of a 60's Irish school day.

Is Mise Raifteirí an file,
Lán dúchais is grádh,
Le súile gan solas,
Le ciúnas gan crá.
Ag dul síar ar m'aistear
Le solas mo chroí
Fann agus tuirseach
Go deireadh mo shlí

Féach anois mé
Is mo chúl le bhfalla
Ag seinm ceoil
Do phócaí folamh

I'm Raftery the poet,
Full of hope and love,
With eyes without sight,
My mind without torment.
Going west on my journey
By the light of my heart.
Weary and tired
To the end of my road

Behold me now
With my back to the wall
Playing music
To empty pockets.

And here is the first verse and chorus of  Óró sé do bheatha abhaile!

’Sé do bheatha, a bhean ba léanmhar
do bé ár gcreach tú bheith i ngéibhinn
do dhúiche bhreá i seilbh meirleach
's tú díolta leis na Gallaibh.


Óró, sé do bheatha bhaile
óró, sé do bheatha bhaile
óró, sé do bheatha bhaile
anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

Hail, oh woman, who was so afflicted,
It was our ruin that you were in chains,
Our fine land in the possession of thieves...
While you were sold to the foreigners!


Oh-ro, welcome home
Oh-ro, welcome home
Oh-ro, welcome home
Now that summer's coming!
Donall Dempsey
Written by
Donall Dempsey  Guildford
     Elizabeth Squires
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