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Top Irish Poem Number 82: A Drover By Padraic Colum

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Another top Irish poem. This one is ranked number 82: A Drover, by Padraic Colum 

Padraic Colum appears quite regularly on the top 100 Irish poems. In fact, his Irish poems make an appearance 7 times! Two weeks ago I was sharing his deeply emotional poem “A Cradle Song“. 

He truly is a great poet and I do enjoy his poems. Some parts of this poem are less clear than others but overall the atmosphere is simple and beautiful. 

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Some notes on the poem A Drover by Padraic Colum:

This poem is written by a cattle drover and set in the early part of the 20th century.

They walked with the cattle from the poor land of the west of Ireland to the richer lands of the east, where the cattle were fattened before being slaughtered for meat.

The lands of the west wouldn’t have allowed the cattle to thrive.

The drover would usually walk alone for the best part of 100 miles or so.

The reference to the King of Spain’s daughter may refer to help from overseas to defeat the British, as it was common to refer to help as coming from the King of Spain.

This Irish poem was taught in Irish primary school’s and many still remember it. 

A Drover By Padraic Colum

To Meath of the pastures,
From wet hills by the sea,
Through Leitrim and Longford
Go my cattle and me.

I hear in the darkness
Their slipping and breathing
I name them the bye-ways
They’re to pass without heeding.

Then the wet, winding roads,
Brown bogs with black water;
And my thoughts on white ships
And the King o’ Spain’s daughter.

O! farmer, strong farmer!
You can spend at the fair
But your face you must turn
To your crops & your card.

And soldiers-red soldiers!
You’ve seen many lands;
But you walk two by two
And by captain’s commands.

O! the smell of the beasts,
The wet wind in the morn;
And the proud & hard earth
Never broken for corn;

And the crowds at the fair,
The herds loosened and blind,
Loud words and dark faces
And the wild blood behind.

(O! strong men with your best
I would strive breast to breast
I could quiet your herds
With my words, with my words.)

I will bring you, my kine,
Where there’s grass to the knee;
But you’ll think of scant croppings
Harsh with salt of the sea.

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