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The Wayfarer by Padraig Pearse

The beauty of the world has made me sad.
This beauty that will pass.

Sometimes my heart has shaken with great joy
to see a leaping squirrel on a tree
or a red ladybird upon a stalk.

Or little rabbits, in a field at evening,
lit by a slanty sun.

Or some green hill, where shadows drifted by,
some quiet hill,
where mountainy man has sown, and soon will reap,
near to the gate of heaven.

Or little children with bare feet
upon the sands of some ebbed sea,
or playing in the streets
of little towns in Connacht.

Things young and happy.

And then my heart has told me -
these will pass,
will pass and change,
will die and be no more.

Things bright, and green.
Things young, and happy.

And I have gone upon my way, sorrowful.

I think this lovely and moving poem is given a peculiar poignancy by the fact it was written by Padraig Pearse on the day before he was shot after Easter Week 1916. I first came across this on a record by actor Milo O'Shea, which came out in 1967.In the wake of the trouble in Seattle with the World Trade Organisation conference in December 1999 there was a discussion thread on the Mudcat Cafe, and I remembered it and posted it, because it seemed relevant.

And I added the comment "It makes it easier to understand how great love can lead to people doing terrible things - in Dublin 1916, or to a vastly lesser extent, in Seattle 1999, and that some of the roots of Yeats' "Terrible beauty" do not lie far away from ther concerns that moved people in Seattle. We'd all better be very careful not to allow ourselves to be carried to places we don't want to go to."

I've now put a tune to the poem - to see the song version, with chords, click here.

For another song by a poet shot after Easter Week, see The Planets by James Plunkett.

"Songs and other writing"
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