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This week’s top Irish poem: Thomas McDonagh, by Francis Ledwidge

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Another week another great Irish poem. If you would like to get a new Irish poem to your inbox every week be sure to subscribe to my weekly dose of Irish here.

So what is this week’s top Irish poem? 

The Irish poet Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917) wrote Lament for Thomas MacDonagh for his friend.

He was a fellow Irish poet Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916), who was executed on May 3, 1916, for his role in the Easter Rising. 

What was the Easter Rising? 

On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, MacDonagh and his fellow revolutionaries took over key buildings in Dublin with the intent of severing ties with England.

The English responded by sending in the army and for seven days.

Dublin was ablaze with gunfire and shelling as the rebels and English army battled.

This event has come to be known as the Easter Rising.

You can tell from the tone in this poem that Ledwigidge was angry at his friend’s execution. He also was conflicted about his own role as a soldier in the English army. The angry tone of the poem is matched by an optimistic and defiant ending.

The poem comes in at number 24 on the top 100 Irish poems.

It is also one of the shortest Irish poems on the list. 

Thomas McDonagh

He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds,
Above the wailing of the rain.


Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.


But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor
And pastures poor with greedy weeds
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

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