Loyal readers of The Jukebox will know that as St Patrick’s Day approaches each March, honouring my heritage, I tip my hat to Irish Writers, Painters and Poets especially dear to my heart.
I had thought to include the Poet Michael Hartnett and Master Musicians The Gloaming in my St Patrick’s Parade 2019.
But, last week, I found the line, ‘Their talons left on me scars not healed yet.’ echoing through my night and daytime dreaming mind.
Scanning the Poetry section of my bookshelves I lighted upon Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems and soon found his revelatory, ‘A Necklace of Wrens’ in both the English and Irish Language versions.
As the poem tells us Hartnett accepted a Mystic invitation into the Poet’s life
Initiation would bring both wound and blessing and gathering understanding that the craft demanded lifelong fidelity.
A necklet of feathers is yet a collar.
It is the Poet who, through the craft, makes us see the wet meadow, the otherness of the realighting birds and the sharpness of their talons.
Michael Hartnett had the precious gift of revealing to us the sharp wonder of the world all around us.
Now, let’s hear him read the Poem and tell the story of its genesis including his poignant relationship with his Grandmother.
A Necklace of Wrens
For Mícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file
When I was very young
I found a nest
Its chirping young
were fully fledged.
They rose and re-alighted
around my neck,
Made in the wet meadow
a feather necklet.
To them I was not human
but a stone or tree:
I felt a sharp wonder
they could not feel.
That was when the craft came
which demands respect.
Their talons left on me
scars not healed yet.
Michael was a Poet in both Irish and English.
It seems to me that this Poem, deeply etches itself into the imagination with the simplicity and unsounded depths of an ancient fable.
This surely takes it’s inspiration from the Irish Bardic tradition.
There is a haunting yet spare music in his reading of the Poem in it’s native Irish form that will not leave you.
An Muince Dreoilíní
Do Mhícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file
I mo bhuachaill óg, fadó fadó,
Bhí na gearrcaigh clúmhtha, fásta,
is iad ag scread.
D’éirigh siad – is thuirling
arís ar m’ucht
Ormsa bhí muince clúimh
sa mhóinéar fliuch.
Níor dhuine mé ach géag crainn
nó carn cloch
ach bhí iontas crua nár bhraith said
ag bualadh faoi m’ucht.
B’in an lá ar thuirling ceird
a éilíonn ómós:
is d’fhág a n-ingne forba orm
nár leigheasadh fós.
The Irish musicians of The Gloaming also specialise in bringing us home to our sense of wonder.
Martin Hayes from County Clare plays the Fiddle, Dennis Cahill Chicago born with Kerry lineage plays the Guitar, Iarla O Lionáird from West Cork provides the Vocals, Dubliner Caoimhin O Raghallaigh plays the Fiddle and Thomas Bartlett from Vermont plays the Piano.
Together they open up the music of the heart’s core.
Sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night when dawn is not yet even promised I like to climb to the top of the ridge and shed the distractions of the electronic buzz and the timetable of planned activities.
At first it is hard to simply stand still and still the whirling mind.
Persevere and breathe.
Persevere and breathe.
At first the senses search for what’s not there – the bright light, the sounds of cars and conversation before adjusting to what is there – the hoot owl singing, the glimmer of the constellations, the beating of your own heart.
And then, only then, a vacancy waiting to be filled, can you hear the music of the night.
That’s what the music of The Gloaming sounds like to me.
Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems published by Gallery is one of the greatest achievements of modern Irish literature.
The Gloaming have released three CDs, ‘The Gloaming’, ‘Gloaming 2’ and ‘Live at the NCH (National Concert Hall’. I can not recommend them highly enough.