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Lament for Thomas MacDonagh -- Francis Ledwidge

Guest poem sent in by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous
(Poem #1607) Lament for Thomas MacDonagh
 He shall not hear the bittern cry
 In the wild sky, where he is lain,
 Nor voices of the sweeter birds
 Above the wailing of the rain.
 Nor shall he know when loud March blows
 Thro' slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
 Blowing to flame the golden cup
 Of many an upset daffodil.
 But when the dark cow leaves the moor,
 And pastures poor with greedy weeds,
 Perhaps he'll hear her low at morn
 Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.
-- Francis Ledwidge
As there are no Francis Ledwidge poems on your page, I thought that I would
send this one on to you. Ledwidge was an Irish nationalist, from a quite
poor background who, notwithstanding his nationalist feelings, joined the
British army in the First World War. He felt bitterly let down when, in the
middle of that war, in the aftermath of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin in
1916, the British authorities executed the leaders of this rebellion, one of
whom was his friend, the poet Thomas MacDonagh. Notwithstanding his
disillusion, he returned to the Front and was killed himself at the age of
29 in the Battle of Ypres in Belgium.

The Easter Rising gave rise to an extraordinary amount of poetry. One of the
most moving has been run previously, Padraic Pearse’s "The Mother" [Poem
#1188],
written by one of MacDonagh’s fellow rebels and poet on the eve of his own
execution.  Yeats’ poem, "Easter 1916" [Poem #1011] was also written about the
same event.

I first came across this poem in school, and like very much the sound of the
first lines. Apart from the beauty of this testament to a slain friend, the
appropriateness of wailing, lamenting, tearlike rain as a metaphor for the
grief associated with death, the arrival of spring representing the hope
perhaps of something better to follow, the poem (and in particular, the
first two verses) conjure up for me a vivid image of the weather, the feel
and the look of the Irish countryside.  The dark cow leaving the moor,
supposedly, is a metaphor for Ireland. I think that this is the poet’s hope
that when things get better for his country that his executed friend will
somehow become aware of this and know that his own death has not been in
vain.

[Links]

  On Ledwidge:
    http://www.slane.com/ledwidge.htm and
    http://oldpoetry.com/authors/Francis%20Ledwidge

[broken link] http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/l/Ledwidge,F/life.htm

  On MacDonagh:
    http://www.searcs-web.com/mcdonagh.html and
    http://www.1916rising.com/pic_tom_mcdonagh.html

42 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Foersterling Martin (EXTERN AUEL) said...

I particularly like the last 2 lines of the 2nd stanza
(the image of the daffodils' petals been "blown to flame"
is nothing short of astonishing), along with the great
(yet desolate) atmosphere in the 1st stanza. This is truely
an appropriate lament for a poet from a poet.

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