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Ireland, Ireland -- Sir Henry Newbolt

A bit late for St. Patrick's day, but...
(Poem #41) Ireland, Ireland
  Down thy valleys, Ireland, Ireland,
  Down thy valleys green and sad,
  Still thy spirit wanders wailing,
  Wanders wailing, wanders mad.

  Long ago that anguish took thee,
  Ireland, Ireland, green and fair,
  Spoilers strong in darkness took thee,
  Broke thy heart and left thee there.

  Down thy valleys, Ireland, Ireland,
  Still thy spirit wanders mad;
  All too late they love that wronged thee,
  Ireland, Ireland, green and sad.
-- Sir Henry Newbolt
This is a beautifully Irish poem - musical, plaintive and poignant; it is
somewhat surprising that it was written by an Englishman. I am not, in
general, a fan of Newbolt's - his rhythms can get monotonous, his attitudes
sententious and his 'dialect poems' annoying. This piece, in refreshing
contrast, is simple yet evocative, the phrases and images ringing true, and
the repetitions and metronomic metre reinforcing the mood rather than
spoiling it. I'd love to see it set to music - it recalls some of the more
keening Celtic melodies, though as much by its content as by its rhythm.

Biographical Notes:

  b. June 6, 1862, Bilston, Staffordshire, Eng.;  d. April 19, 1938, London

  English poet, best-known for his patriotic and nautical verse.

  Newbolt was educated at Clifton Theological College and at Corpus Christi
  College, Oxford. He was admitted to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1887 and
  practiced law until 1899. The appearance of his ballads, Admirals All
  (1897), which included the stirring "Drake's Drum," created his literary
  reputation. These were followed by other volumes collected in Poems: New
  and Old (1912; rev. ed. 1919). During World War I he was comptroller of
  wireless and cables and was later commissioned to complete Great Britain's
  official naval history of the war. He also edited various anthologies of
  verse, which reveal his catholic and progressive taste in poetry. He was
  knighted in 1915 and appointed a Companion of Honour in 1922.

        -- E.B.


  [Newbolt's] early work was frankly imitative of Tennyson; he even
  attempted to add to the Arthurian legends with a drama in blank verse
  entitled Mordred (1895). It was not until he wrote his sea-ballads that he
  struck his own note. With the publication of Admirals All (1897) his fame
  was widespread. The popularity of his lines was due not so much to the
  subject-matter of Newbolt's verse as to the breeziness of his music, the
  solid beat of rhythm, the vigorous swing of his stanzas.

  In 1898 Newbolt published The Island Race, which contains about thirty
  more of his buoyant songs of the sea. Besides being a poet, Newbolt has
  written many essays and his critical volume, A New Study of English Poetry
  (1917), is a collection of articles that are both analytical and alive.

       -- Untermeyer, Louis, ed. 1920. Modern British Poetry.


18 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Diane Chew said...

Sir Henry Newboult - "Ireland, Ireland"

Rather a 19th C. Englishman's over-romanticised, not to say maudlin, view I think.

Henrietta Chew

jimbean1 said...

I am interested in Newboults poem 'Drakes Drum'. Any idea where I can get a copy?

Jim Bean.

william HENDERSON said...

No date on your request for a copy of Drakes drum -
Got a copy yet?


McGillicuddy Colin said...

Perhaps Newbolt is referring to period in Irish history characterized by
the "Flight of the Earls" - English conquerors who "went native".

Colin McGillicuddy


St. Thomas Aquinas RCSS

124 Dorval Drive

Oakville, ON

L6K 2W1


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