Music is general

Music is general over Ireland:

There’s a kid with a fiddle

On Grafton Street, and out

In the West, in Ballydehob,

There’s a German couple

In Rosie’s bar, who are playing

Bob Marley. Your parents

Are fox-trotting across the floor

In the golf club, and the army band

Is practicing “Faith of our Fathers”.

In Limerick the pipes, the pipes

Are calling, and in this little church

By the sea, there’s music dancing

Where the altar used to be.

There’s a ceilidh tonight

In the community centre

On Clare Island, and the pipes

Sing like a bad woman

And in Toners there’s a poet

Who suddenly bursts into

“My Lagan Love”, and high

Above Ben Bullen, there’s a

Skylark rising, rising, rising.


For Brendan, over at toads. We are asked to write a poem for St Patrick’s Day. It was hard to narrow it down. Toner’s is a pub in Dublin, if you’re wondering. 

25 thoughts on “Music is general

  1. Is it because Gaelic is such a musical language that Ireland sings everyone one looks? For us of the old diaspora — my ancestors sailed out of Cork Harbor in 1778 on a ship named the Sea Sprite — that sound is so muted, distant, and fleeting, an ennui too feeble to dance to without massive quantities of alcohol and merchandising. The music here lifts from the stones like, well, a skylark rising. Thanks for playing this reel at the Imaginary Garden!


    • I think there is a political element to it. Without getting too #metoo, you have to remember that Irish culture was suppressed for several centuries, and music is a subtly subversive way of carrying a culture – look at the African diaspora. I’m not Irish – my husband is – so my experience of Ireland is mediated through him, to a certain extent, and he was around in the 70s when the folk revival was very much part of Ireland rediscovering a positive identity, that was not just “not English”, so that scene was to a certain extent political – and good fun, with lots of drinking and partying. There does seem to be an assumption that people will take part in musical activities in Ireland, whereas in England I think we tend to see it as a specialist area, and that most people will consume rather than produce music. My response to your comment is now a good deal longer than my poem was! 1778 – that’s a long time ago. I’ve always assumed you’ve spent time in Ireland from your writing (and your name), but I guess that might not be the case? The cultural back and flow between Ireland and America is fascinating. St Patrick’s day has been reimported from America, bigger, brasher and greener than ever before.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You honor the Irish with the verbose … Irish subjugation for me goes back to Patrick and his Christian missionary like — long has music been the true insurrection. I remember hearing The Chieftans in the ’70s (I posted a YouTube of them at the bottom of my post) and heard that skylark rising. I’ve never been to the British Isles, but that hasn’t kept me from digging a long time in its dirt. As many things in the US, St. Paddys is grand permission to experience fake nostalgia and weep fake green tears. Money to be made, you know.


  2. Well of course it is. That’s an Irish skylark! (I may be biased, however.) Lovely stuff, and i read with interest ‘s first comment and your response.

    Er..what on earth is that on your header? I stared and stared and can’t figure it out.


  3. What a cracking poem. Loved the rhythm of it, the musicality. Watched a documentary just last night about Irish rock music, how musicians struggled through the Troubles in the seventies, rebelled against the Church’s hold. Fascinating. A lovely read


  4. Pingback: Music is general — Fmme writes poems – MobsterTiger

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