EASTER, 1916

‘We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric,

but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry’

W.B Yeats, ‘Anima Hominis’, Essays (1924)



Could he hear the firing squads day after day?

Did the rattle carry from Kilmainham Gaol

to Merrion Square as the poem quickened?


Easter had been as late as it could be

that year. Unlikely saviours came forth,

commonplace clerks, scribblers, pedagogues.

The English sent a gunboat up the Liffey.



While paupers’ bones receive scant ceremony,

a king’s skeleton toured much of Leicestershire

(excluding its now defunct coal fields) –

received a 21 gun salute,

was borne on a gun carriage, escorted

by Guides and Scouts and chaps ahorse in armour,

lay in state flanked by bowed head veterans

and was entombed in bespoke pride of place

in the restored cathedral with long queues.


The remains of a sensitive, serious

fellow portrayed holding his signet ring,

his seal of office,



The sun is lowering in the west by the time

I reach the site. Though the hawthorn hedges

are casting long shadows, I can see

the remains of the earth fortifications.

This fortified homestead, a quarter

of a football pitch, was lived in for

six centuries, from the so-called dark

to the so-called middle ages. It was

some ‘continuing city’ for twenty four

generations – from Aneurin’s ‘Y

Goddodin’ to Dante’s ‘La Divina

Commedia’. They kept cattle, grew crops.



You are old enough now to remember this.

The overhead power line at the cottage

meant we could not fly the new kite there.

I knew a field five minutes away

with a ruined medieval chapel

and a view down the slope to a bay

where hundreds of souls drowned in a fabled storm.

But we told you of the space and the wind.


Your daddy showed you how to fly the kite

while your mummy, grandma and me went

to church!



On this late summer Sunday afternoon

a line of smoke drifts from woodlands below

that seem to stretch almost unbroken

to the South Downs distant, cerulean.

Out of sight is England’s long southern coast.

Dressed limestone forms the house’s facade.

It is imbedded with severed fossils.


Through an open window there is music,

a piano. On the lawn are cream teas

and wasps. A buzzard is circling far off.

Josiah Wedgwood retired here, Darwin

visited and Ralph Vaughan Williams composed.