A little blue book sits on my desk. Collins Gem – French Grammar. There is something about the book that stirs a memory.
As the day progresses it keeps drawing me back, keeps hankering me. Then… voila! Of course. I once owned a similar sized book. The poems of WB Yeats. Pocket size for off the cuff poetry enjoyment. If that’s your thing. I lived a wild life back then.
I must have lost it in the intervening years or simply discarded it, as you do. Maybe it fell from my pocket, as pocket size things regularly do?
But I do remember my attempts to memorise one poem from its neat small pages.
Lines came back, jumbled and bundled haphazardly together. Memory not my best friend these days. When in doubt resort to Google. A worthy modern day mantra. I reproduce the once remembered lines here in full.
Its connection to painting? Dammed if I know. Its scribble these few words or succumb to writer’s block, the ultimate in self-betrayal.
Hence the poem – An Irish man foresees his death. Please enjoy.
I know that I shall meet my fate,
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.