It was a great honour to have been asked to write a poem for the Garden of Remembrance in 2016. The poem was inspired by Oisín Kelly’s statue of the Children of Lir. I wanted to use the story of Clann Lir to connect the uprisings of the past with the the Irish language today. I also wanted to pay homage to Liam Mac Uistín’s poem and his line ‘glúnta na haislinge’ which features in the Garden of Remembrance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at the State Ceremony yesterday (Easter Saturday) but was please my poem was read out at this very poignant occasion.
Fiú is iad i riocht eala,
fágadh a dteanga acu:
a gcuid amhrán.
Níor chlis ar a gcuimhne.
300 bliain de dheorantacht fhliuch,
300 bliain idir dhá ríocht,
300 bliain de dhaoirse sáile.
Tháinig is d’imigh
glúnta na haislinge,
lucht píce is airm,
iad uile ag iompar na bhfód.
Maidir linne, glúin na saoirse,
tá uisce trínár dteanga,
tá giotaí dár n-amhrán dearmadtha
ach maireann cleití na cuimhne fós;
san áit íogair, tá ball breac.
Even in swan-form
their tongues remained human:
their ability to speak,
Their memory sustained.
300 years of sodden contortion,
300 years between two kingdoms,
300 years of saltwater captivity.
They came, they went,
the generations of dreamers
the poets, the makers
the pikemen and snipers
all now bearing the sod.
As for us, the generation of freedom,
with our watered-down language,
our songs only half-way recalled,
a few feathers of memory survive
in that tender place, a mottled patch.