For Francis L

In the cool damp of the morning,
When blackbirds whistled in the hedge,
The bright jay shouted warning,
Bittern boomed in the sedge,

In the cool of dewdrops falling,
You marched back to the mud
And none of blackbird’s calling
Brought you back, no soft words could.

For the men who marched across the sea
Took the blackthorn in their pack,
And you knew as you crossed the lea
That you’d not be coming back.

A poem for Francis Ledwidge and dverse.


Words and pictures poetry challenge: 1

I have finally decided to start a new series of prompts, lines from poetry interspersed with paintings. I’ll try to make this a regular Wednesday challenge.

The poet I have a chosen is one for whom I have a special affection, Francis Ledwidge, the poet of the blackbirds. He was born at Baile Shinéad (Janeville) in County Meath and killed at Passchendaele 1917 when he was 29.

My father, who was a poet, introduced me to Ledwidge and claimed some family link. Certainly my father’s mother and my mother’s grandfather both came from the Dunboyne area, about twenty miles from Baile Shinéad, and of course, that is my name, so why not a link? Ledwidge even looked rather like my dad.


This is his most well known poem, written for Thomas McDonagh, poet, patriot and political activist, on hearing of his execution for his part in the Easter Rising.



He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain.

Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.

But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor,
And pastures poor with greedy weeds,
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.


For the challenge, I propose choosing three key words from the poem, words that strike you in particular, and use them as the end of line words in a tritina, inspired by Ledwidge’s poem. The exact rules of engagement with the tritina are here. If you want to join in, just leave a link to your poem in the comments before next Tuesday when I’ll post them all.

The words I have chosen are: sky, rain, slanting.


Lost bird


I watched a bird’s flight cut across the sky,

Above the blowy trees and through the rain;

A path it made though all the world was slanting.

What kilter was is gone, the world is slanting,

And oceans pour to drown the watered sky,

Their feathers floating through the bird-fish rain.

You are not here to join me in the rain,

To hold me when I slip; the slope is slanting,

Sliding after bird gone in the sky,


The feathered, clouded sky where rain is slanting.