“The cool that came off the sheets just off the line
Made me think the damp must still be in them
But when I took my corners of the linen
And pulled against her, first straight down the hem
And then diagonally, then flapped and shook
The fabric like a sail in a cross-wind,
They made a dried-out undulating thwack.
So we’d stretch and fold and end up hand to hand
For a split second as if nothing had happened
For nothing had that had not always happened
Beforehand, day by day, just touch and go,
Coming close again by holding back
In moves where I was x and she was o
Inscribed in sheets she’d sewn from ripped-out flour sacks.”
7. "To School Through the Fields" or "Quench the Lamp" by Alice Taylor (although I swear my father could have written either of these evocative tales of a childhood in Ireland).
The Irish way of telling stories is unique. Written in English but always with a distinct Irish beat.
9."On Raglan Road" by Patrick Kavanagh (and if you really want to enjoy it, check out this version by Mark Knopfler and Donal Lunny).
“On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.”
10. "Summer in Dublin" – Bagatelle.
I regularly took the Inner-city Express , now The Enterprise train from Belfast to Dublin in the summers of the early 1980s. I know this is not something you would ever hear on "The Old Grey Whistle Test" but on St. Patrick’s Day, I might as well be every bit as maudlin as the rest of you.
Now, I know I have omitted Yeats and Joyce, Wilde and Shaw, U2 and The Chieftains, Rory Gallagher and Phil Lynott, Moving Hearts and Thin Lizzy, Brian Moore and Jennifer Johnston, but you’ll find them all and so many more on other people’s lists.
Happy St. Patrick's Day