Western World

Western World

Poem Courtesy of Thurles Author & Poet, Tom Ryan ©

Between Corrib and the sea,
In the ever-changing Indian Summer light-scape,
Stands the stony walls of Connemara,
Solemn, ancient testament to a past simplicity.
Beneath the twelve ancient pins,
Like sentinels over the bleak terrain,
Battered by Atlantic’s waves.

See the leathery faces of the men,
Who put to sea in currach’s.
And the mellow, sensuous skin of Gaelic speaking girls.
My heart flies,
As if returning home,
To some beautiful beginnings,
On this cool evening of summer.

A Gaeltacht girl,
Waist deep in the Traigh Mhor* waves,
Making towards the silver sand,
Startling the sea gulls on surf-whited rocks.
The girl breasts the Atlantic,
Defiant like all her race,
Of the furies of the dangerous farraige*.

There’s a white spot near the Burren of Clare,
And it’s called Black Head.
Where the great liners of sad and hungry years paused,
Before engulfing
The Gaelic speaking men and women,
Who sought a world beyond the horizon,
Worthy of their steel.

The canvas-covered haycocks stand,
Black from the rain of the West,
The great rocks abroad at sea, near shore,
Are washed by the evening sun,
Light orange and shaded,
Against the backdrop of the distant coast of Clare,
And the stroinseiri gallda*.

Calm, the sea,
And on the shore old women stroll,
And praise the tranquillity,
That ennobles their age.
There’s little but Nature here,
And thoughts are clear and pure and strangely simple,
In their surging beauty and innocence.

Later, as dusk soft steals upon us, on a sand dune,
Near a dead, stone walled open fireplace,
Broken bottles of ale.
Some passions were powerful here.
It is a land here starkly sensuous,
Where muscle and brain, bone and flesh are at one,
With the ever-present sea, and who knows – eternity?

I am loth to leave this place,
And envy them in the white washed cottages,
By the walled-in haggard,
And a derelict stony house from long ago.
Where is an Gaeilge now?
An old man on a bicycle swore to me,
“It buys little enough here or in London”.

Where is the tongue of courage,
That by peat fires sang,
The songs of the Gaelic soul,
In a lilting, lifting swell of Gaelic emotion?
Where the pride of the Western World?
Conquerors of the sea and their own fears and tears,
Níl cainníocht agus cáilíocht mar an gcéanna*,
We are not the same as goodness.

I weep for the strong and laughing men now gone,
And strangely beautiful women and the slight to nature of an affluent age,
The mockery of the rich and the spurning of an ancient pride,
Too late, moan.
Forever gone,
That splendid spirit of those who lived,
Between Corrib and the sea.


* Traigh Mhor – Local cove area near An Spidéal – translated from the Irish meaning “big beach”).
* farraige – translated from the Irish meaning “sea”.
* stroinseiri gallda – translated from the Irish meaning “foreign strangers”.
* Níl cainníocht agus cáilíocht mar an gcéanna – translated from the Irish meaning “Quantity and quality are not the same”.

Tom Ryan, “Iona”, Rahealty, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.


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