Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two poems on Life Passing

The first by Charles Kingsley has all the maudlin excess that has killed off so much of 19th century poetry for the modern reader. It was learned in primary school from one of the “Young Irish Reader” series that was the staple for countless “Christian Brothers’ boys” back in the sixties and before. Looking at it now, it seems a cause for jumping.
Young and Old
by Charles Kingsley
WHEN all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green ;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen ;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away ;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown ;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down ;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among :
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

Then secondary school, and some excellent English text books including “Exploring English” 1, 2 and 3 (Gus Martin’s anthologies) for Inter Cert followed by the recently republished “Soundings” for Leaving Cert poetry. And there was the poem that I think I can call my favourite of all, “Fern Hill”. (When you’ve got the house to yourself, dig it out read it out loud and clear; the only way to do justice to this poem.)

from Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

…………………………. And final stanza
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

The full poem is on page

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