This week's theme - 'Songs of Myself', so to speak.
(Poem #171) I am Raftery the poet
I am Raftery the poet. Full of hope and love. My eyes without sight, My mind without torment. Going west on my journey By the light of my heart, Tired and weary To the end of the road. Behold me now With my back to the wall. Playing music To empty pockets.
Early 19th century. Translated by James Stephens. I've always been fascinated by the bardic tradition and, indeed, by oral poetry in general . Perhaps it's because wandering poets (minstrels, troubadours, jongleurs, call them what you will) tend to be more in touch with the common people, with the hustle and bustle of real life; their poetry has an earthiness rooted in the dirt and grime and yes, beauty of the everyday . Which is not to say that they're incapable of finer emotions or philosophical insight; it's just that they tend to experience Life with a greater passion than most of us , and that passion is often translated into words of wonderful poignancy. thomas.  A fascination Martin shares... you do remember what our little egroup is called, don't you? A wandering minstrel I A thing of shreds and patches Of ballads, songs and snatches And dreamy lullaby -- from The Mikado, W. S. Gilbert.  It's interesting to contrast the rough beauty of Raftery's verse with the oh-so-elegant fluff that was being produced by the Augustan poets in England at approximately the same time. No prizes for guessing which I prefer :-)  probably why they became poets in the first place. [Followup] The most moving portrayal of spontaneous minstrelsy I've ever come across is the description of the Singers, in Samuel R. Delany's breathtakingly brilliant short story 'Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones'. Read it. [Biography] Anthony Raftery,1779 - 1835, the poet, was, we are told, born in Cill Liadain (Killeadan), near Kiltimagh County, Mayo, as the son of a weaver from County Sligo. Blinded by smallpox in childhood and illiterate, he was helped by his father's employer, Frank Taaffe, for whom he was a household entertainer, until they fell out, allegedly because he killed a favourite horse. Raftery then joined the thousands of homeless people, who roamed Ireland to live off a population not much better off than himself. Mise Raiftearai an file, Lan dochas 's gra, Le suile gan solas, Le ciunas gan cra, Feach anois me Is mo chul le balla Ag seimn ceoil Do phocai folamh. [I've omitted the diacritical marks for the benefit of those of you whose mailers don't support extended ASCII; the curious can view the poem in its 'true' form at the website listed below - t.] This poem tells us how he lived. `I am Raftery,the poet, full of hope and love; with eyes without light, with gentleness without misery, Look at me now and my back to the wall, playing music to empty pockets'. However, he must have been better off than most. Because of his talents as a poet and musician he was welcomed in many houses. He spent most of his adult life in `Achréidh na Gaillimhe'(the rich farmland of East Galway), where the `strong farmers' were his patrons. A poet of the people, his work deals with events of the time and reflect the views of the people of the area. Loud in his praise of those who helped him, his sharp tongue was used against those who incurred his wrath. -- from http://homepage.tinet.ie/~foregan/adc/raftery.html [Links] A more detailed biography (and far more interesting) essay on Raftery can be found at [broken link] http://www.galwayonline.ie/history/history2/rafter.htm For an alternative theory on the authorship of today's poem, check out [broken link] http://hep.uchicago.edu/~oser/raftery.html And for an essay on Gaelic literature in general, visit http://infoplease.lycos.com/ce5/CE019894.html [Random Thought] I can't help but wonder how much Heinlein was influenced by the career (and character) of Raftery while creating the immortal Rhysling. I'll run 'The Green Hills of Earth' some day; you can judge for yourself. t.