Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The great Gaels of Ireland

from Ballad of the White Horse, by G.K. Chesterton

[Alfred is gathering the chiefs for war and comes to Colan of Caerleon]

Last of a race in ruin–
    He spoke the speech of the Gaels;
His kin were in holy Ireland,
    Or up in the crags of Wales.

But his soul stood with his mother’s folk,
    That were of the rain-wrapped isle,
Where Patrick and Brandan westerly
Looked out at last on a landless sea
    And the sun’s last smile.

His harp was carved and cunning,
    As the Celtic craftsman makes,
Graven all over with twisting shapes
    Like many headless snakes.

His harp was carved and cunning,
    His sword prompt and sharp,
And he was gay when he held the sword,
    Sad when he held the harp.

For the great Gaels of Ireland
    Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
    And all their songs are sad.

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