Archive for National Poetry Day

#PoetryDayIRL: ‘When You Are Old’, by William Butler Yeats

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on April 30, 2020 by telescoper

One more for Ireland’s National Poetry Day. I couldn’t resist posting one by William Butler Yeats (known to his friends as ‘WB’)

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

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;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

#PoetryDayIRL: ‘Dublin’, by Louis MacNeice

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on April 30, 2020 by telescoper

Here is another poem for Ireland’s National Poetry Day. This one is called Dublin and it was written by Louis MacNeice.

Grey brick upon brick,
Declamatory bronze
On sombre pedestals –
O’Connell, Grattan, Moore –
And the brewery tugs and the swans
On the balustraded stream
And the bare bones of a fanlight
Over a hungry door
And the air soft on the cheek
And porter running from the taps
With a head of yellow cream
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse.

This never was my town,
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
And all her ghosts that walk
And all that hide behind
Her Georgian facades –
The catcalls and the pain,
The glamour of her squalor,
The bravado of her talk.

The lights jig in the river
With a concertina movement
And the sun comes up in the morning
Like barley-sugar on the water
And the mist on the Wicklow hills
Is close, as close
As the peasantry were to the landlord,
As the Irish to the Anglo-Irish,
As the killer is close one moment
To the man he kills,
Or as the moment itself
Is close to the next moment.

She is not an Irish town
And she is not English,
Historic with guns and vermin
And the cold renown
Of a fragment of Church latin,
Of an oratorical phrase.
But oh the days are soft,
Soft enough to forget
The lesson better learnt,
The bullet on the wet
Streets, the crooked deal,
The steel behind the laugh,
The Four Courts burnt.

Fort of the Dane,
Garrison of the Saxon,
Augustan capital
Of a Gaelic nation,
Appropriating all
The alien brought,
You give me time for thought
And by a juggler’s trick
You poise the toppling hour –
O greyness run to flower,
Grey stone, grey water,
And brick upon grey brick.

#PoetryDayIRL: ‘Quarantine’, by Eavan Boland

Posted in History, Poetry with tags , , on April 30, 2020 by telescoper

It is a remarkable fact that when the poet Eavan Boland passed away a couple of days ago, the sad news of her passing led the main TV bulletin here in Ireland. I struggle to think of another country where the death of a poet would be deemed so important.

Anyway, today is National Poetry Day in Ireland so I decided to post a poem by Eavan Boland as a tribute on this day. This is Quarantine a moving contemplation of the tragedy of the Great Hunger.

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking — they were both walking — north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

A Day in Autumn – National Poetry Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on October 6, 2016 by telescoper

It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Posted to mark National Poetry Day.

Sonnet No. 25 (for National Poetry Day)

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on October 4, 2012 by telescoper

I’m a bit ashamed that being very busy I forgot that today, Thursday 4th October, is National Poetry Day the theme of which this year is “stars”. I wish I’d remembered and would have posted something appropriate to mark the occasion, but this will have to do…


Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.

Sonnet No.25 , by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

National Poetry Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on October 7, 2010 by telescoper

In case you hadn’t realised, today is National Poetry Day. I sometimes post poems on here whenever I have the urge – either because they’re favourites of mine or because they seem topical. For a change, and to celebrate the special nature of today, I thought I’d try to solicit some from my friends and colleagues via Facebook or Twitter.

This, Welsh Landscape by R.S. Thomas, was suggested by Rhodri Evans.

To live in Wales is to be conscious
At dusk of the spilled blood
That went into the making of the wild sky,
Dyeing the immaculate rivers
In all their courses.
It is to be aware,
Above the noisy tractor
And hum of the machine
Of strife in the strung woods,
Vibrant with sped arrows.
You cannot live in the present,
At least not in Wales.
There is the language for instance,
The soft consonants
Strange to the ear.
There are cries in the dark at night
As owls answer the moon,
And thick ambush of shadows,
Hushed at the fields’ corners.
There is no present in Wales,
And no future;
There is only the past,
Brittle with relics,
Wind-bitten towers and castles
With sham ghosts;
Mouldering quarries and mines;
And an impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding,
Worrying the carcase of an old song.


This one, Beauty, by Edward Thomas was suggested by Steve Eales.

WHAT does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,
No man, woman, or child alive could please
Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh
Because I sit and frame an epitaph–
“Here lies all that no one loved of him
And that loved no one.” Then in a trice that whim
Has wearied. But, though I am like a river
At fall of evening when it seems that never
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file,
This heart, some fraction of me, hapily
Floats through a window even now to a tree
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale;
Not like a pewit that returns to wail
For something it has lost, but like a dove
That slants unanswering to its home and love.
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air
Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there


Here’s one from me. I learnt it at school where I studied German for one year before giving it up. I had a rather eccentric teacher who thought the best way to learn a language was to read poetry rather than learning how to say banal things like “Please can you direct me to the railway station?”. It wasn’t a very good idea, but at least it left me with bits of German poetry still in my head over 30 years later. I can still remember every word of this wonderful poem by Goethe

Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen Blühn,
Im dunklen Laub die Gold-Orangen glühn,
Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht,
Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht,
Kennst du es wohl?
Dahin! Dahin,
Möcht ich mit dir, o mein Geliebter, ziehn.

Kennst du das Haus? Auf Säulen ruht sein Dach,
Es glänzt der Saal, es schimmert das Gemach,
Und Marmorbilder stehn und sehn mich an:
Was hat man dir, du armes Kind getan?
Kennst du es wohl?
Dahin! Dahin
Möcht ich mit dir, o mein Beschützer, ziehn!

Kennst du den Berg und seinen Wolkensteg?
Das Maultier sucht im Nebel seinen weg:
In Höhlen wohnt der Drachen alte Brut;
Es stürzt der Fels und über ihn die Flut,
Kennst du ihn wohl?
Dahin! Dahin
Geht unser weg! o Vater, laß uns ziehn!

If you have a favourite of your own you’d like to suggest, please let me know through the suggestions box…