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High Kings and Taoiseachs - Images of Ireland

Spring in Kilmainham

The daffodils' petals turned red in Kilmainham,
the vernal tranquillity came to an end,
and cowslip and furze voiced their paschal anger
with violet and bluebell all over the land.

The daffodils roared as the iron shepherd
led lambs to the slaughter for standing their ground.
A daffodil's petals must never be trod on;
the following springtime no shepherd was found.


Dublin Cycle

On Sundays people go to Mass,
and some go on a hike,
and some go dancing with their lass;
I go and ride my bike.

Down Sackville Street by bike I go,
along the old canal,
from GHQ to GPO
so oft I cannot tell.

£10,000 are on my head,
but still my bike I race:
the foreign forces want me dead,
but they forgot my face.

Through all patrols, round every fence,
and, voicing my dislike,
through all the raids of Black and Tans
I go and ride my bike.

And now the foreign forces sent
their master spies to kill
the members of our government,
but I don't think they will.

At nine we're standing at their door -
the final blow we'll strike,
and then, a free man evermore,
I'll go and ride my bike.

(Click here to listen to Dublin Cycle performed on Radio Seagull.)


Feeding the Ducks on the Green

The Countess on the barricades
saw, as her snipers spread,
a man with a brown paper bag
he carried on his head.

As he approached the Green, she ordered
her men to hold their fire,
‘He’s gonna feed them bally birds,’
she guessed from his attire.

He was the park keeper; she told
her men to clear the way
so he could look after the ducks
and feed them twice a day.

Those who did not agree with her
could hear their chief declare,
'We, comrades, do our duty here,
as he does his down there!

'Would it not be hypocrisy
if we would use a war
to stop a man from doing what
we claim we’re fighting for?'


To the Slaughter

‘It was a good fight anyhow.’ – The O’Rahilly

On Good Friday he burst into Patrick Pearse’ study
and brandished a rifle, ‘Whoever should plan
to kidnap me, too, better be a bloody
quick shot!’ he exclaimed at the terrified man.

‘Calm down,' Pearse replied. 'It is hardly surprising
that you are upset, but Hobson is safe.
He’s only detained; he caught wind of the rising,
but we’ll free him on Sunday - now stop your chafe.’

The O’Rahilly laughed, ‘You have got no equipment
nor weapons; you’ll pay a terrible price!’ -
‘We’ve a chance, for tonight we’re expecting a shipment
from Germany.’ - ‘Hell, what a blood sacrifice!’

On Saturday calls for a cancellation
were made since the shipment was lost, and a fierce
O’Rahilly travelled the South of the nation
all night, countermanding the orders of Pearse.

On Easter Monday he rose and, finding
out the rising was going ahead, just like
a dart he dashed over, ‘Since I’ve helped winding
up the clock, I have come here to hear it strike!’

He was welcomed, and Constance asked him with gladness,
‘Did you not denounce this as mad?’ - He replied,
‘It’s madness all right, but it’s glorious madness!’
and joined the rebels with presage and pride.

From Liberty Hall, to remove Ireland’s gargets,
some four hundred passionate volunteers
spread out to seize their respective targets;
The O’Rahilly was assigned to Pearse.

They entered the GPO and gently
led staff and customers out of the door;
The O’Rahilly and some others intently
took up their posts on the busy first floor.

In a phone box he found a young soldier, unable
to post greeting cards at this awkward time
since Mick Collins had tied him with telephone cable;
‘Untie him – this man has committed no crime.’

Patrick Pearse proclaimed the Republic under
the Tricolour out on Sackville Street;
some sniggered at him and some gazed in wonder,
but most took no heed and kept moving their feet.

With the post office fortified, those in attendance
heard O’Rahilly say, ‘We’re dead meat now and thus
human sacrifices to Independence;
let’s hope that the Brits will accept them from us!’

A small troop of soldiers was sent to get answers
as to what went on and got caught in a blaze
of gunfire; the rebels shot four of the lancers
and a horse which lay dead on the road for five days.

The O’Rahilly watched as a crowd of civilians
entered shops through the broken windows and doors
and plundered fur coats and jewels worth millions;
‘We die for their freedom, and they loot the stores.’

On Tuesday evening Lord Wimborne, in writing,
declared martial law as the army clamped down
on the rebels; the GPO saw no fighting,
but they heard the gunfire throughout the town.

On Wednesday affairs got a little more iffy
when, being done with Liberty Hall,
a gunboat named Helga attacked from the Liffey
and artillery answered the rebels’ call.

Surprised at the heavy bombardment, the gritty
James Connolly took a deep breath and swore,
‘I didn’t expect them to shell the city
centre, being capitalists to the core.’

By Thursday when Sackville Street was burning
and the city centre cordoned off,
the lads came to terms with the very concerning
awareness of pending defeat and scoff.

On Friday afternoon, on the border
of doom, with the GPO on fire,
The O’Rahilly calmly received his last order
and remarked, ‘They keep saying that God loves a trier.’

Being asked to lead a small band as the curtain
for the rebels fell and attempt one last bold
dash for shelter he said, ‘It’s the end for certain;
but what if we’d missed this and died of the cold?’

With a dozen men he ventured the sally,
but he was gunned down and collapsed in pain;
he managed to drag himself into an alley
and lay on a doorstep in Sackville Lane.

An ambulance passed in the night; the alerted
young driver got out to assist and went near,
but an officer ordered him back and asserted,
‘He’s important, we’ve orders to leave him here.’

On Saturday morn to his wife whom he cherished
he composed a note as he lingered on, clothed
in green uniform; then The O'Rahilly perished
for a cause he endorsed in a battle he loathed.


Aisling 2016

‘Born to an unwed mother, Independence,’
the spéirbhean told me of young Ireland’s grief,
‘the Church immured her due to her descendance
and held her captive for the priest’s relief.

‘And when she came of age and thus the cleric
at last was done with her, he sold her to
the moneychanger, known for the barbaric
way that he treats his slaves, both old and new.

‘Today she works for nothing, suffers deeply,
does not get fed and, making matters worse,
gets whipped each evening just before she’s cheaply
whored out to pay for debts that are not hers.

‘There’s just one way that we can put things right:
let Ireland and her mother reunite!’


Centenary

Walked along the rolling Liffey
past what once was Liberty Hall
where the volunteers did answer
the Republic’s ardent call.

Sauntered down the thoroughfare that
in those days was Sackville Street
to the GPO where rebels
then prepared their final feat.

Passed the very spot where Patrick
Pearse proclaimed, as work begun,
a republic made of equals,
looking after everyone.

Tens of thousands celebrated
Ireland’s great Centenary
and commemorated heroes
in an Ireland still unfree.


Ballypotemkin

The picturesque village of Ballypotemkin
outdoes every place in the world with its style,
and its ivory tower of wealth can be spotted
from any point on the Emerald Isle.
Its palace is made out of tea stone marble,
there’s a market where fates are bought and sold,
a mall lined with milk and honey fountains,
and its streets are paved with solid gold.

The parlours are crawling with rulers and merchants,
with moneychangers and their wives,
their offspring and the several others
who have never done a day’s work in their lives.
Their days are spent with entertainment,
with money laundering and debates
inside their village, and commoners aren’t
allowed within fifty miles of its gates.

The only ones ever leaving the village
are the tax collectors who have to be quick:
to finance their masters’ extravagant lifestyle
they rob all the workers, the poor and the sick.
They know no mercy and have no compassion,
and those who beg beg to no avail,
for those who have nothing are forced from their houses
out onto the streets, or they’re thrown into gaol.

The villagers welcome guests from rich countries,
be they business partners or tourists who pay,
‘Céad Mile Fáilte to our country,
we hope you will have a pleasant stay.
But don’t venture too far from Ballypotemkin
since this land is, despite all the troops we deploy,
full of sinister savages who are rejecting
the prosperous way of life we enjoy.’


Celtic Reveille

The Celtic Boar still lies asleep
to rise again at break of day.
As long as he's in slumber deep,
he is a playground for his prey:
the lamb has climbed him in his bed
and makes the V sign on his head.

Awake! Awake and greet the dawn,
welcome the blessing of the day,
and show thy tusks with every yawn
to scare the cheeky lamb away;
then from the god above break free
and wake the ancient gods in thee!


Tara Moon

The Tara Moon stood full and bright
amidst a clouded sky:
that blue I've never seen a night,
no holy place that high.

Here is it where in olden days
the gods and kings did dwell;
now sheep are grazing in the place
where Erin rose and fell.

But midnight came, and then once more
the graves gave birth, and all
those bodies buried long before
went to the banquet hall.

And once again a cheerful crowd
would dance and laugh and sing
and each ten minutes cry out loud,
'Long live the Tara King!'

And once again his fellowmen
to him their sons would bring
and say as joyful as they can,
'Long live the Tara King!'

Another knight would offer here
his girl a wedding ring
and even louder join the cheer,
'Long live the Tara King!'

But then I heard a bleat from there,
and all those brave young men,
those merry girls and ladies fair
turned into sheep again.


Erin's Ruins Stand In Blossom

Erin's ruins stand in blossom,
jewellery from Nature's store,
bounteous like the Hanging Gardens
Babylon was famous for.

Flowers, purple, pink and yellow,
red as blood, blue as the sky,
breaking through the walls of ivy,
bring a heaven to our eye.

Everything that man created,
Beauty conquers it at last,
and the Paradise is growing
over dwellings of the past.


Hy-Brasil o'er the Waves

I know an isle, and at its shore
no gods nor kings nor slaves
will cloud the vision evermore:
Hy-Brasil o'er the Waves.

It rises from the ocean's ground
all seven years and saves
a soul; he won't return who found
Hy-Brasil o'er the Waves.

Set sail and let us travel west -
ascending from our graves
we'll claim the Island of the Blest:
Hy-Brasil o'er the Waves!


Emerald Isle

Hard fists and whingy dirges,
hard facts and oral lore,
hard luck and emigration
and praties by the score.

Thick ferns and lofty palm trees
and nimbi in the sky,
and many an attractive
colleen to please the eye.

The lakes, the moors and mountains
where ancient rivers roll,
the farmers and the poets,
the children and the dole.

Rough coasts and rougher language
and gingerbread for tea,
and rugged hills and people
determined to be free.


The Invisible

On a December evening
in Dublin, in plain view,
a man sits on a stairway
as many others do.
Many a Christmas shopper,
their spouses for to spoil,
walks round the homeless beggar
who sits across the Dáil.

On a December morning
in Dublin, in plain view,
a man dies on a stairway
as many others do.
Students, TDs and workers,
facing their daily toil,
walk past the lifeless body
which lies across the Dáil.


Irish Mothers

Straight after she gives birth, her folk
welcome the little don
to his new home while mother cooks
and puts the kettle on.

And when he brings a girlfriend home
he calls his pure white swan,
and talks of business plans with her,
she puts the kettle on.

And when, to help them get a loan,
his dad puts, slightly wan,
the house up as security,
she puts the kettle on.

And when at last they realise
his partner pulled a con
as Gards come in to search the house,
she puts the kettle on.

And when the bailiff’s at the door,
and everything is gone
that they have worked for all their lives,
she puts the kettle on.


The Poet’s Blessing

As Paddy labours in the churchyard,
he thinks of all the cash he spent –
it’s rent day, and he won’t be able
to pay a quarter of the rent.

He minds the poet’s grave. The silence
of dawn is broken: he can hear
a busload of American tourists
arrive, which gives him an idea.

Under their watchful eyes he slowly
kneels down as if he were alone,
prays for the soul of the straying poet
and puts a coin upon his stone.

Not heeding all the tourists, Paddy
goes back to work some yards away,
only returning to the poet
after he’s finished for the day.

There he collects the coins the tourists
have left; the poet’s statue winks,
and after Paddy pays his landlord,
there’s still enough for several drinks.

(Click here to listen to The Poet’s Blessing performed on Radio Seagull.)


The Thistle

In Killyvale there stands a thistle.
In sunshine and in rain
he still recalls the joyous whistle
he heard from many a train.

Oft he would ponder, ‘I can’t take it,
life in this barren land;
I’ll take the train with which I’ll make it
to Crock or Ballysand.’

Yet he had second thoughts and faltered
each time the train went by -
thinking of home, his plans were altered,
‘I’ll give it one more try!’

But this time he’s determined. Humming
a tune (though lacking skill),
he swears, ‘I’ll take the next train coming –
honest to God, I will!’

Now that was fifty years ago. The
conductor’s evil streak
made sure he never got to know the
line was shut down that week.

And if you pass the Killyvale way,
in sunshine and in rain
you’ll find him standing at the railway
and waiting for a train.


Across the Moor

The moon is full and pale,
and vapour fills the dale -
none of God's creatures is
out on a night like this;
even the water vole
retired to its hole,
the birds have ceased their song,
but I still ride along.
Only my life I claim;
with freedom as my aim
and hunger as my guide
across the moor I ride.

The fog grows denser now,
but I shall keep my vow
to ride until I find
peace for my troubled mind,
though I can hardly see
the trees in front of me.
The first time since I've fled
I slowly turn my head,
and in the humid grey
the workhouse fades away;
since there's no place to hide,
across the moor I ride.

My stallion raised his ears,
'cause from the mist appears
a rider swift and grim;
I do not look at him,
but still my weary eyes
see a black cloak that flies
around a scrawny shade,
and they can see the blade,
reflecting through the haze
the pallid moonlight's rays -
a stranger by my side,
across the moor I ride.


The Sailor’s Return

Like a mountainous vessel that's put out to sea
Benbulben's sheer face was the last thing I saw
once your images faded away at the pier
as the barque I embarked on was leaving the shore.

It was hunger that drove me away, and I slaved
on a number of ships so that we could survive,
but the sum I could send you was hardly enough,
and the sum I could keep barely kept me alive.

Oft at night in my cabin I dreamt of the days
I was with you, and each foreign harbour anew
oped my eyes to the voice of my heart which revealed
that I'd rather be home, and be starving with you.

For our hunger burns less with our loved ones around,
and no more through rough ports and strange countries I'll roam;
the grave prow of Benbulben still points towards the sea,
but the journey is over, the sailor is home.


Famine Cemetery

Broken bottles on a tombstone,
crisp bags strewn over the graves
are convincing indicators
that we're not Tradition's slaves.

Children dying of starvation,
parents struggling to the last,
clans wiped out by epidemics
are mere spirits of the past.

Now there's no more thirst or hunger
as we see by those displays:
broken bottles on a tombstone
state we live in better days.


On My Return to Derry After Eighteen Years

The tanks have gone, the walls remain.
It’s been too long; I did refrain
from coming here, I have to tell,
the town that I have loved so well,
not for the townsfolk I did meet
but armoured cars in every street.

The nicest people worked their charms
and welcomed me with open arms
to this quaint place when first I came;
yet I would never speak its name,
and that’s because I never knew
which party I was talking to.

The one thing that I could not bear
was seeing soldiers everywhere.
At every corner of the town
they held their guns, marched up and down;
I feared, as I walked down the road,
they’d shoot or something might explode.

Those days are gone; for good, we hope,
since people now have learnt to cope -
one listens to the other side,
and hands are crossing the divide:
I took the bus, just like before,
to see the friendly town once more.

I took a stroll, enjoyed the sun,
and later, when the day was done,
had a few chats and many a smoke
and drink with Derry’s friendly folk,
and as I listened, they’d explain:
the tanks have gone, the walls remain.


The Drumcree Bogey

If you don't eat your tea and cease to fight
the praties with your fork,
the Drumcree Bogey will appear tonight,
and with a frown he'll gawk
at you and take you to his murky cave,
where rats and leeches keep his company,
where louse and cockroach live in unity
and many a child is working as his slave;
there, with an evil sparkle in his eye,
he'll murmur, 'I -, I -, anal spye!'
I'm not afraid, for I don't fear
his apoplectic face,
and I will run if he comes near -
I know that he can't race!

If you don't do your blinking homework right
and tidy up your room,
the Drumcree Bogey will appear tonight
and bring you to your doom.
He'll grab you with his paws and bring you down
into his black cadaver-flooded den,
where ancient fetid constipated men
pray to a brittle idol made of crown,
and with an evil sparkle in his eye
he'll bawl out, 'I -, I -, anal spye!'
I know that he looks fierce and grim,
but if he comes too close,
I'll throw green oranges at him
and punch him on the nose.

If you don't go to bed, switch off the light
and sleep before we're back,
the Drumcree Bogey will appear tonight
and put you in his sack.
Then, in his gloomy dwelling, rife with age,
you'll listen to his fits against mankind
and to the ravings of his bilious mind
and to the thunder of his blinkered rage,
and with an evil sparkle in his eye
he'll bellow, 'I -, I -, anal spye!'
I'm conscious of his decadence,
and if he rants like that,
I'll hide my face behind my hands,
and thus I won't get wet.


The Unmerciful Servant

When Ireland was the land of famine,
a lot of men escaped their fates
by setting sail and populating
Australia, Britain and the States.

But now that one can live in Ireland,
they guard their coast and keep at bay
the handful who are seeking refuge,
‘This is our country - stay away!’


In the Corners of the Dáil

(Tune: What a Friend We Have in Jesus)

In the Dáil we count our money,
thinking of new ways in which
we can drain this little island,
rob the poor and give the rich.
In the Dáil Bar we get wasted
just before we take our call,
voting for the highest bidder
in the corners of the Dáil.

Here we have a lot of parties
for the wealthy and the big,
but we all must be compliant
or the chief will flip his wig.
Those who don’t obey their master
feel the whip, and when they fall
all the others burst out laughing
in the corners of the Dáil.

When a takeaway goes bankrupt,
they are on their own, but still
when a bank is going bankrupt
we just send the proles the bill.
Non-tycoons now owe more money
than they’ve ever seen at all
while we party with the bankers
in the corners of the Dáil.


The Taoiseach’s New Clothes

or

How the Celtic Tiger Became Extinct

A long time ago, when the Taoiseach
once again didn’t know what to do,
his advisors came up with an answer
and brought him to Dublin Zoo.

At a cage which he thought was empty
they stopped. ‘Now here’s our surprise:
he’s called the Celtic Tiger
and can only be seen by the wise.

‘Just look at his beautiful pelage,
his clear eyes and strong sturdy neck -
you will see that in no time or faster
he’ll get things on this isle back on track.’

And people came from the four corners
of the world to see and festoon
the Tiger that came out of nowhere
and was to return there quite soon.

‘How he’s grinding that bone like a cupcake!’ -
‘My gosh, what a beautiful brute!’ –
‘Watch, he’s dancing the tarantella
in a skirt on two paws; ain’t he cute?’

And the Tiger grew bigger and stronger,
and soon he came of age.
‘He’s been growing a lot,’ said the keeper,
‘and he’ll need a bigger cage.’

‘He is right,’ the advisors admitted.
‘I think I will give it a miss,’
said the Taoiseach. ‘He’s only a keeper,
what the hell would he know about this?’

But then, on the following morning,
the keeper was hanging his head,
and he went to the Taoiseach and told him,
‘I’m afraid the Tiger is dead!’

‘That can’t be,’ cried the Taoiseach and hurried
to the cage where he asked for the key
and leant over his pet and caressed him,
‘Quick, bring me an AED!’

The keeper looked slightly bewildered
and lit a cigarette,
‘With his head being cut off so neatly,
I can’t see much point in that.’

The advisors soon found a solution,
‘If you wear his fur as your new
cloak I’m sure you’ll convince all your voters
that his power has passed on to you!’

So the Taoiseach called tailors and watched them
sew, gather, embroider and soak
it in spirit of turpentine, anxious
to try out his amazing new cloak.

He first wore it to Mass on a Sunday
where some loyal supporters did perch
on the wall, donned their heads and saluted
as the Taoiseach entered the church.

But as he sat down for the service,
a girl pulled her mother aside,
‘Look Mum, the Taoiseach is naked!’
and everyone laughed till they cried.


Bailout and Repossession

The blacksmith paid his rent and went to work;
he loved to forge and never tired of working,
when in the doorway of the workshop, smirking,
he saw the local moneylender lurk.

‘Are you not sick of paying rent?’ he asked.
‘Why don’t you buy your own? For just ten staters
a week, paid over seven years, those traitors
of landlords lose,’ he said with greed unmasked.

And so the blacksmith signed the contract and
moved into his own building in the city,
until one day the mayor, void of pity,
burst in, the moneylender’s friend.

‘The lender’s bankrupt! We need money quick
to bail him out; give me two thousand staters
at once so we can fix the gaping craters
in his accounts, and dare not give him stick!’

‘Excuse me? If he doesn’t know his trade,
that’s his own business; he should cut his spending.’ -
‘Our whole economy depends on lending;
without him not a worker could be paid!’

‘But I don’t have that kind of money,’ moaned
the smith who was the city’s sole purveyor.
‘Then you will have to sell your forge,’ the mayor
replied, ‘this matter can not be postponed.’

And so the smith was left with little jobs
for which he didn’t need the forge. One morning
the lender wandered in without a warning
and looked just like the emperor of snobs.

Demanding payment with the usual threats,
he sniggered as the smith said in frustration,
‘You’ll have to take into consideration
that I’d to sell my forge to pay your debts:

‘My business has been ruined.’ Close to tears
the agitated blacksmith added meekly,
‘I can afford to pay five staters weekly,
and I shall pay them over twenty years.’

His offer was declined without a care,
and while the bankrupt lender in his mansion
is working on an opulent extension,
the smith sleeps rough amid the market square.

And every now and then the lender, known
not to remember customers, comes creeping
around and asks, ‘Are you not sick of sleeping
outside like this? Why don’t you buy your own?’


The Pigeon Hunters

We are the Irish peasantry
of our twenty-first century.
The governments played us some pranks
and gave our money to the banks:
greed and incompetence combined
have brought them down. Now we must find
some food after we’ve fed the shark,
so we hunt pigeons in the park.

We have to struggle to survive
and try to make the best of life,
and this solution seems the best -
we fill our bellies, fight a pest
and spend our time productively,
keeping each other company:
we light a fire with chairs and bark
and roast our pigeons in the park.

The famine planes we shall not board:
we have refused (or can’t afford)
the government’s advice to leave
the country that will not achieve
its independence while we live.
Against all odds, we do not give
up easily, and when it’s dark
we’re eating pigeons in the park.


Eight Hundred Children in a Septic Tank

Eight hundred children in a septic tank,
killed by neglect, the punishment for being
born out of wedlock, bear grim witness to
the Church’s morals and her servants’ geeing.

While all their mothers, as their sentence, were
sold into life-long slavery to tattle
and wash the dirty laundry of the Church,
the kids were carted off to Tuam like cattle.

Entuamed in Ireland’s most unusual mass grave
(that we’re aware of), they were dumped like vermin;
their torturers felt morally superior
for reasons that no human can determine.

As we have noticed many times before,
the skeletons in Mother Church’s closet
consist of more than some saints’ relics, thus
the Church’s morals shouldn’t be a posit.

Eight hundred children in a tank are just
the tip of the one large corpse berg that now faces
her congregation; I suggest to search
for moral codes in more appropriate places.


© Frank L. Ludwig