Brian

1920s country school

Out in the wilds of nowhere

Mrs Lynn I remember the name

My mother fondly recalled her

The poorest place upon God’s earth

Yet full of eager learning

Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare she read there

Her heart so fondly yearning

Dawn on the Hills of Ireland too

A poem for recitation

And Milligan Alice the Banba poem

For the tumult of the nation

A poem so long with rhythmic beat

My mammy could recite it

From early dawn to life’s late night

Such memory now I credit

A lilting lyric long and true

Like rolling waves of ocean

My mammy’s voice caught every hue

Every nuance every notion

In England days she spoke the words

Reciting how each verse flows

And home in Mayo journey done

The singsong sound re-echoes

And here today in Alba’s land

Her firstborn son remembers

The poetry his mammy knew

Like stirring an old fire’s embers

My mammy’s voice I hear again

Her poems my inspiration

To know the loveliness of life

To celebrate my station

That country school is closed up now

Its children all have scattered

But their children’s children keep alive

The flame of love that matters

And now I know how I got my name

It was the poem of her childhood

I have carried it the livelong day

Now in old age I can bravely say

At last I have understood

 

Brian Fahy

19 October 2021

 

+ Alice Milligan, a Protestant lady from County Tyrone, (1865 – 1953) was a great advocate of Irish Independence. Her poem Brian of Banba was published in 1904. It has six long verses. To read any line of it now is to hear my mother’s voice reciting it. Its opening words are, ‘Brian of Banba all alone up from the desert places came to stand where the festal throne of the Lord of Thomand’s race is’.

 

Further down are the words, ’I have followed no deer since yesteryear, I have harried no neighbour’s cattle; I have wooed no love, I have played no game but the kingly game of battle.’

 

The poem ends with Brian’s call to arms:

 

‘But grant me now,’ and he turned to look in the listening warriors faces, ‘ a hundred more of the brave Dal Cais, to follow me over plain and pass, and die as fitteth the Clann Dal Cais, at war with the outlaw races.’

 

 

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