Skip to Content

Irish Poem: The Fool, by Padraic Pearse

Share this 🍀😍

This week I picked a top Irish poem from the later half of the top Irish poems list. You can see the top 100 Irish poems list here.

If you are new here I publish a bit of background about each of these poems and send them out every week on my weekly dose of Irish. 

This week it is another Padraic Pearse poem titled “The Fool.” It comes in at number 74 in the Irish times top 100 Irish poems list. 

What is the poem The Fool by Padraic Pearse all about?

“The Fool” is one of Padraig Pearse’s most famous poems– arguably even his most famous.

Padraig wrote this poem upon the death of his friend and Irish Republican Brotherhood member Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.

He did not allow anyone to hear the poem until he recited it at his funeral on the 1st of August 1915. 

He ended by saying, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace,” a line still controversially quoted by some groups who do not recognise the Good Friday Agreement.

1 August 1915 – Patrick Pearse delivered the graveside oration for Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa.

National Library of Ireland on The Commons, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fool

Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;
A fool that hath loved his folly,
Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes,
Or their fame in men’s mouths;
A fool that in all his days hath done never a prudent thing,
Never hath counted the cost, nor recked if another reaped
The fruit of his mighty sowing, content to scatter the seed;
A fool that is unrepentant, and that soon at the end of all
Shall laugh in his lonely heart as the ripe ears fall to the reaping-hooks
And the poor are filled that were empty,
Tho’ he go hungry.
I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.

Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me!
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow’s teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God; or was it a jest of Christ’s
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?
The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, `This man is a fool,’ and others have said, `He blasphemeth;’
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.

O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith
And so I speak.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
O people that I have loved, shall we not answer together?

Share this 🍀😍