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World Poetry Day: 10 of the most beautiful lines from Irish poetry


by Erin Lindsay
30th Apr 2020

In honour of World Poetry Day, we’re looking at our Irish homegrown talent


As it’s World Poetry Day, we couldn’t let the day pass without recognising the immense Irish talent we have on home ground.

Irish poets have populated the world with some of the most beautiful texts ever written, and we have earned our reputation as wordsmiths. From Yeats to Heaney, Boland to Wilde, these are some of our favourite lines from beautiful Irish poems.

This is what language is:
a habitual grief. A turn of speech
for the everyday and ordinary abrasion
of losses such as this:
which hurts
just enough to be a scar
And heals just enough to be a nation.

Eavan Boland – The Lost Land

 

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

Patrick Kavanagh – Raglan Road

 

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face
W.B Yeats – When You Are Old
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.
Seamus Heaney – Follower
The sounds of Ireland,
that restless whispering
you never get away
from, seeping out of
low bushes and grass

John Montague – Windharp

Cuirim mo dhóchas ar snámh
i mbáidín teangan
faoi mar a leagfá naíonán
i gcliabhán
a bheadh fite fuaite
de dhuilleoga feileastraim

(Translation)

I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant
in a basket of intertwined
iris leaves,

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill – Ceist na Teangan / The Language Issue

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Oscar Wilde – The Ballad of Reading Gaol

I was not born or bred
Nor schooled here and she will not
Have me alive or dead
But yet she holds my mind
With her seedy elegance,
With her gentle veils of rain…
Louis MacNeice – Dublin

 

Dreams fled away, this country bedroom, raw
With the touch of the dawn, wrapped in a minor peace,

Thomas Kinsella – Another September

Dearest,
if I can never write ‘goodbye’
On the torn final sheet, do not
Investigate my adult life but try
Where I started. My
Childhood gave me hope
And no warnings.
Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin – Recollections

Read more: Books and poems can change your life. Really.

Read more: ‘I was a voice’: 10 of the most beautiful lines from Eavan Boland’s poetry
Read more: 12 beautifully poignant poem lines worth reading and remembering

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