My father died, my brother too, They passed like fleeting dreams, I stood where Popocatapetl In the sunlight gleams.I dimly heard the master’s voice And boys far-off at play, – Chimborazo, Cotopaxi Had stolen me away.
My father said there was no God “And that one knows it to her painted toes” My mother smiled.
She’d plucked her eyebrows too And wore a see-through skirt With matching vest.
(Love is monomaniacal, love is appalling, love is secret, love is childish, love rips you from the bosom of your family, love is woozy, love is ravishing, love is scrumdiddlyumptious.) I should probably feel embarrassed at telling Ireland that this is my favourite love poem, but am unabashed.
There are many fine poems about the grown-up parts of love, but it’s as infatuated teenagers that we learn romance, and as infatuated teenagers that we practice romance, all the rest of our lives.
The shift in scale that permits identification with the Earth turning towards rebirth in spring is brought perfectly home in the poem’s masterstroke, the repetition of “Despite the snow” and, even more, the suspension of time in that amplifiying “falling”. Nine Bright Shiners Medbh Mc Guckian When one was sweet and twenty something , clutching at the straw of one’s virginity, it was Yeats’s lessons in lovesex that hit home, from “Brown penny, one cannot begin it too soon,” to the doting grandmother in focused on a Catholic family in the nuclear ’60s subverting puritanical denials and frustrations with a gesture of tenderness.
The girl in it does not escape, whereas in John Francis Waller’s Victorian ballad, , the maid Eileen woos her grandmother into drowsiness with her own affectionate singing (all wrong according to the old woman), lulls her and leaps out in a bid for freedom to rove in the moonlight with her true love.
Here’s one from the 13th century, by Beatriz, Countess of Dia, which I translated for a book I did called How I’d like him oh how I would like him my cavalier even if for a single night naked in my arms his head resting on my lap I love him, more than Floris loved Blanchflor I did not tell him this Everyone, everyone should know To him I gave my heart my soul my reason my eyes my life My tender beautiful cavalier when will I have you for myself?
For one night only naked in your arms If you could only take my husband’s place and swear to me you’ll answer when I call, and heed my desire. In hours like these, one rises to address The ages, history, and all creation.
In 1990 it was revealed Lily was NKVD agent 15073 and had been informing the authorities about his disillusionment with the regime of that nice Mr Stalin. I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams I have no cause to wake or trouble you. Louis de Paor As it gets harder to tell the ventriloquists and their dummies apart, it helps to remind myself I’m from the same place as Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Rory Gallagher, Seán Ó Ríordáin and Patrick Galvin: no fake; no lie; no excuse.
The poem was left as a note when Mayakovsky shot himself in 1930. Ó Ríordáin said Galvin’s poems were “fíochmhar, neamhscrupallach, contúirteach” [fierce, unscrupulous, dangerous].
That the poet is anonymous, adds further to the mystery of the piece written about 1530.