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« "Come Rain or Come Shine" w/ Eileen Farrell and Leonard Bernstein [by David Lehman] | Main | Eliot’s Turn [by Thomas Moody] »

February 13, 2018


Such a nice story and tribute to the Raifteiri. It resonated because years ago Sharon and I visited the grave of --
guess who -- Turlough O'Carolan in County Roscommon. Your description of Raftery's cemetery could equally apply to O'Carolan's - a very serene, peaceful, beautiful little graveyard with no one else around. As we were leaving, we noticed a structure buried under years of vegetation. It was the ruins of an old stone Victorian teahouse, and wandering through it we could almost hear the whispers of the ladies sipping tea 150 years ago. Your story brought back that memory, so thanks!!


There's also his famous poem for this time of the year (tráthúil don am seo den bhliain):

“Anois teacht an Earraigh 

beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh, 

Is tar eis na féil Bríde 

ardóigh mé mo sheol.

Go Coillte Mach rachad 

ní stopfaidh me choíche 

Go seasfaidh mé síos 

i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo."

Now with spring coming

The days will be lengthening

And after St. Bridget's Day' (Feb 1)

My sail I will raise
And to Kiltemagh I will go,
I won't ever stop

Till I plant my feet

In the middle of Mayo.

Another piece by him is the slow air lament Anach Cuan (usually translated as Annaghdown) lamenting the drowning death in 1828 of a boatload of people at Anach Cuan (cuan being a bay). We learned these three pieces by heart at school.

I thought Fergus was the last of the wandering bards. No trust Wikipedia.

Thank you for this story, Terry. My kids are fond of complaining about being dragged around to old cemeteries by their grandmother. I've never understood the appeal of going to see Chopin's grave, or Jim Morrison's, at that big cemetery in Paris. But I can see the tug of ancient memory in this story, that the legend of the bards continues into our own time, that you would want to acknowledge and honor a man like Raftery.


tpw for precinct alderman 2018!

Thanks, Howard. It wasn't planned, but during my last trip to Ireland I wound up in about a 10 cemeteries (not permanently, fortunately). They are profound places.

Thanks, Noel. I do know those poems. We are fortunate that his audience remembered his work well enough for these poems to have survived. (One item I forgot to mention in the post: Gabriel Byrne owns [or owned] a little house right behind this cemetery.)

Now I may have to pay a visit to O Carolan. Bás in Éirinn!

Thanks, T.

ah, brilliant post terence, thank you eternally for sharing your memories and scholarship about our people...

Great story Terence. Now, about the money...three Our Fathers & three Hail Marys. Go in peace.

I love this Terence. What an experience. The experience sings! May the grass of graves grow over lives of consequence that then whisper past glories into who each of us are.

Thanks, Tom.

Funny you should say that---another relation of ours, upon hearing of this mysterious windfall, insisted we should give it to the local priest.

Thank you, mo chara.

A Thraolaigh, A Chara: Greetings from the cold north. I loved your piece about the poet, Antoine Ó Raifteiri (Raftery). In fact, his "neighbour," Peatsaí Ó Callanáin (Patsy Callanan) was one of Ireland's best known Great Famine poets/songwriters, (in the Irish language, of course). His song: Na Fataí Bána - The White Potatoes, is still sung today, and was recorded by the sean nós singer, Liam Ó Maonlaí.

I wrote about Ó Callanáin in 1999 for a collection on the Great Irish Famine. Hope you enjoy it:

And here is a link to Ó Maonlaí's version of the song - from episode one of "The Irish in America: Long Journey Home: The Great Famine," (it starts at marker: 49.52 on the film clip)

Ádh Mór,

Professor Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, MA, HDE, DUEF, MBA, Ph.D.
Author, Flowing Tides–History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape (2016, Oxford University Press)

La Chaire Johnson en études canado-irlandaises au Québec
Johnson Chair in Quebec and Canadian Irish Studies
School of Irish Studies, Concordia University

Gearóid---Thanks so much for this great addition to the post. I kind of suspected you would be able to flesh out the story for us all. I am looking forward to reading your piece on Ó Callanáin and watching the video.

The musicality of your prose always delights, Terence, and I adore the inscription that serendipity offered you via the gravesite envelope. Never enough examples of the magic that we open to by embarking on a journey.

Thanks, Rachel. I didn't plan it this way, but on my last trip to Ireland I wound up visiting 8 or 9 graveyards, each one distinct and beautiful in its own way---from Glasnevin in Dublin, where about one million of the departed reside, to Raftery's enchanted final resting place.

Terry, your piece is very good, eliciting a lot of interesting commentary. The great comic singer, Tadhg Mac Dhonnaagáin, has written a biography (in Irish) about Raftery appropriately titled “Mise Raifterai.” In it he quotes from another book, Amhráin Mhuighe Seola (1923), about the importance of Raftery in Connacht:
“The songs most popular in Connacht are those of the poet Raftery, who died in 1825. It is really wonderful how this poor blind fiddler poet has set all Connacht singing for the past hundred years, and is likely to continue so doing as long as the language lasts.”

BTW, Maigh Seola is an ancient territory between Loughrea and Headford in Co Galway bringing us back to the land of your mother. The book referred to means The Songs of Maigh Seola (and, outside of the lyrics of the songs, is in English).

Wonderful post! I've always loved the famous Rafferty poem in English translation, but never seen a picture of him. Great portrait and great picture of you at his grave. The way, where is the cemetery of poets in USA?

Thanks, Chris. And where's the Tomb of the Unknown Poet?

A little off topic, but I remember a Dublin cab driver
spending much of the ride decrying the “terrible state”
of the grave site of John Millington Synge in
Mount Jerome’s Cemetery, Harold’s Cross.
An indication that the Irish take their writers quite

Thanks, Billy. You're absolutely right---it's a bit unkempt, but at least there is a "Cemetery of the Poets" in Ireland. On the other hand, it seems that Yeats's very well-tended grave in Sligo is home to some random bones from France.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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