Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Songs

For the Great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad.
G.K.Chesterton,  "The Ballad of the White Horse"

Galway Bay

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland,
then maybe at the closing of your day,
you can sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh,
and see the sun go down on Galway Bay.

Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream,
The women in the meadow making hay,
just to sit beside the turf fire in a cabin,
and watch the barefoot gosoons as they play.


For the breezes blowing o'er the sea's from Ireland,
Are perfumed by the heather as they blow,
And the women in the uplands digging praties,
Speak a language that the strangers do not know.

Yet the strangers came and tried to teach us their ways,
And they scorned us just for being what we are,
But they might as well go chasin after moon beams,
or light a penny candle from a star.

And if there's gonna be a life here after,
And faith somehow I'm sure there's gonna be,
I will ask my God to let me make my Heaven,
In that dear land across the Irish sea.

Come by the Hills

Come by the hills to the land where fancy is free.
And stand where the peaks meet the sky and the loughs meet the sea,
Where the rivers run clear and the bracken is gold in the sun;
And the cares of tomorrow can wait till this day is done.

Come by the hills to the land where life is a song.
And stand where the birds fill the air with their joy all day long,
Where the trees sway in time and even the wind sings in tune;
And, the cares of tomorrow can wait till this day is done.

Come by the hills to the land where legend remains.
The stories of old, fill the heart and may yet come again,
Where the past has been lost and the future is still to be won;
And, the cares of tomorrow can wait till this day is done.
And, the cares of tomorrow can wait till this day is done.


Irish Songs are sad... full of yearning.   The first one I posted here, "Galway Bay" is on the schmaltzy side; the Irish tend to be sentimental, I have noticed.  

The second song, "Come by the Hills" is a real favorite of mine.

I'm half Irish. My father's parents both came from Ireland.  It's only when I am with my Higgins cousins that I realize how much of that Irish heritage has come down to us... on us, I might say.


I visited Ireland for almost four weeks in August and September of 1970.  I hitchhiked around Ireland and had a wonderful time.  I didn't see half of what I could have seen, but I still had the experience of a lifetime. 

In one part of it, I spent a day or so in Sligo, and oared out on Lough Gill with another young American I had met there.  We roamed around on Cottage Island, not knowing how close we were to Innisfree,  the island of Yeats' poem.   Here I am, in a photo taken with my paltry little Brownie camera:

Another place I loved was St.Stephen's Green , in Dublin:

and I took the bus out to Sandycove, to visit the Martello Tower which figures in Joyce's novel Ulysees:
 The scene was just as dramatic as it is in this photo ( which was clearly not taken with my Brownie!)

Here's the one of me on top of that tower:

How I have yearned to go back to Ireland.  I turned the pages of the photograph album tonight, and some of the pages are so brittle and yellow that they crumbled in my hand... forty-four years since that trip!   I thought I would get back I think I never will.  But I'm enormously glad I got there once in my life.

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