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Padraic Colum

(8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972 / County Longford)

A Poor Scholar Of The 'Forties


MY eyelids red and heavy arc
With bending o'er the smold'ring peat.
I know the Aeneid now by heart,
My Virgil read in cold and heat,
In loneliness and hunger smart.
And I know Homer, too, I ween,
As Munster poets know Ossian.

And I must walk this road that winds
Twixt bog and bog, while east there lies
A city with its men and books;
With treasures open to the wise,
Heart-words from equals, comrade-looks;
Down here they have but tale and song,
They talk Repeal the whole night long.

'You teach Greek verbs and Latin nouns,'
The dreamer of Young Ireland said,
'You do not hear the muffled call,
The sword being forged, the far-off tread
Of hosts to meet as Gael and Gall
What good to us your wisdom-store,
Your Latin verse, your Grecian lore?'
And what to me is Gael or Gall?
Less than the Latin or the Greek
I teach these by the dim rush-light
In smoky cabins night and week.
But what avail my teaching slight?
Years hence, in rustic speech, a phrase,
As in wild earth a Grecian vase!

Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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