I am 75. Sixty years ago I learned a poem whose title was (I think)
"An Irish Harbour". It opened with " Some day when I'll lay dying in some land where Ireland is nothing but a name my soul will travel back to find that styrand from whence it came " and concluded with " So, God, who kept the love of home in me will let me die."
Who is the author and does anyonehave the complete poem ?
I think if I lay dying in some land
Where Ireland is no more than just a name,
My soul would travel back to find that strand
From whence it came.
I'd see the harbour in the evening light,
The old men staring at some distant ship,
The fishing boats they fasten left and right
Beside the slip.
The sea-wrack lying on the wind-swept shore,
The grey thorn bushes growing in the sand,
Our Wexford coast from Arklow to Cahore -
My native land.
The little houses climbing up the hill
Sea dasies growing in the sandy grass,
The tethered goats that wait large -eyed and still
To watch you pass.
The women at the well with dripping pails,
Their men colloguing by the harbour wall,
The coils of rope, the nets, the old brown sails,
I'd know them all.
And then the Angelus - I'd surely see
The swaying bell against a golden sky,
So God, WHO KEPT THE LOVE OF HOME IN ME
Would let me die.
Winifred M. Letts
strange as it may seem I found these dates - I wonder which one is right :
Winifred M. Letts was born in Ireland in 1882,
and her early work concerned itself almost entirely with the humor and pathos found in her immediate surroundings.
Her Songs from Leinster (1913) was her most characteristic collection;
a volume full of the poetry of simple people and humble souls.
Although she called herself "a back-door sort of bard,"
she was particularly effective in the old ballad measure
and in her quaint portrayal of Irish peasants rather than of Gaelic kings and pagan heroes.
She also wrote three novels, five books for children, a later volume of Poems of the War
and, during the WW1, served as a nurse at various base hospitals.
here is a link to some of her work :
[www.recmusic.org] /> ...
These things I wish you for our friendship’s sake:
A sunburnt thatch, a door to face the sun...
a kind, old, lazy, chair, a courtly cat to rub against your knees,
Shelves of well-chosen books - I wish you these.
-W.M. Letts, from ‘Wishes for William’
more bio info :
1882-1972; b. Co. Wexford; ed. St. Anne’s Abbots, Bromley, and Alexandra Coll., Dublin; parents lived in Blackrock; became masseuse; m. W. H. F. Verschoyle, and lived in Faversham, Kent, where she died; poems incl. Songs from Leinster (1913); Early Abbey plays and novels, including Christina’s Son (1915); one-act Abbey plays, The Eyes of the Blind (1907), and The Challenge ; a 3-act play, Hamilton and Jones (1941) for the Gate; also Knockmaroon, reminiscences (1933), children’s stories, and hagiography; Songs from Leinster (Dundalgan Press 1947), includes selection from Songs of Leinster (London:. 1913, rep. 6 times to 1928), poems written in Hiberno-English, concerned with simple life with others reflecting impact of First World War in the later edns.; and More Songs &c. (1926); also Hallowe’en and poems of the war (1916). [See DIL; also A. A. Kelly, Pillar of the House, 1988] ‘For Sixpence’ expresses delight at early Abbey productions.
The Story-Spinner (LONDON: TC & EC Jack 1907); Waste Castle (London:/Edin: TC & EC Jack 1907), other eds., (London: T Nelson & Sons [1916; 1918; 1920]) Bridget OF All Work (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1909); Diana Dethroned (London:/NY: John Lane 1909); The Quest of The Blue Rose (London: Hodder & Stoughton ), another ed. (1910); The Rough Way (London: Wells Gardner & Co. ); Naughty Sophia (London: Grant Richards 1912); The Mighty Arm, lives of saints (NY: FA Stokes/London: Wells Gardner & Co. 1912); ‘The Company of Saints and Angels’ [story], Irish Review 1 (Jan 1912), 537-544; plays, The Eyes of the Blind (1907) murder gives up to blind man who claims to know about covert crime]; The Challenge [duel between elderly men over insult], Irish Review, 2 (April 1912), story adapted from her own play of 1909; Songs of Leinster (London: J Murray 1913), another ed. (Smith, Elder & co., 1913), later eds., (1916, 5th rep. 1923; 6th rep. 1938), another ed. (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press 1947); Christina’s Son (London: Wells Gardner & Co. 1916); ‘The Man Who Burnt His Crucifix’, Irish Review 4 (May 1914), 143-167, story rep. in Knockmaroon; Hallow-e’en and Poems of the War (London: Smith, Elder 1916) [var. John Murray 1916]; The Spires of Oxford and Other Poems (NY: EP Dutton 1917); Corporal’s Corner (London: Wells Gardner & Co. 1919); What happened Then? (London: Wells Gardner & Co. ); More Songs of Leinster (London: J Murray/NY: EP Dutton 1926); St Patrick the Travelling Man (London: [I] Nicholson & Watson 1932); Knockmaroon (London: J Murray 1933); Pomona and Co. (London: T. Nelson & Sons ); Pomona’s Island (London: T. Nelson & Sons ); The Gentle Mountain (Dublin: Talbot Press ), another ed. (London: RTS ). [HOG err. J. Nicholson for Ivor N.]
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists author as Winifrid [sic], grand dg. Alexander Ferrier, Knockmaroon Park, Co. Dublin; lists The Mighty Arm (NY: FA Stokes 1912), stories from lives of the saints, incl. Columba [Colum Cille], and cites Diana Dethroned; Christina’s Son; The Rough Way. IF2 adds Knockmaroon (London: Murray 1933), xiv, 274pp.; Pomona’s Island (London: Nelson 1935) [children’s story]; The Gentle Mountain (Dublin: Talbot 1939), 141pp., ill. Kathleen Verschoyle [Belfast family on holiday at Ben Gullion, the fairy-haunted mountain]. See also Irish Book Lover 3, 4, 8. Also Sophia, St. Patrick, etc.
A. A. Kelly, Pillars of the House, An Refsology of Verse by Irish Women 1690 to the Present (Dublin: Wolfhound 1988); also ANTH, Katie Donovan, AN Jeffares, and Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: G&M 1994).
Belfast Central Public Library holds More Songs From Leinster; St. Patrick the Travelling Man; Songs from Leinster (1913, 1923, 1947).
My dictionary of quotations says she was an English (!) writer, lived from 1882 -1972 and the quotation it included was the first verse of The Spires of Oxford, one of her war poems:
The Spires of Oxford
By Winifred M. Letts
I SAW the spires of Oxford
As I was passing by,
The gray spires of Oxford
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Oxford men 5
Who went abroad to die.
The years go fast in Oxford,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play. 10
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.
They left the peaceful river,
The cricket-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Oxford, 15
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.
God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down, 20
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Oxford town.
Letts see ... if Winifred lived 1882 to 1972, then she lived 1887–1972 and 1882-1936, but not 1882-1973.
If she got 90 years, she gets no squawk about it anyway.
THAT makes sense ...
but I believe she lived 1882 to 1972
"Letts see ... if Winifred lived 1882 to 1972, then she lived 1887–1972 and 1882-1936, but not 1882-1973"
she wrote :
Bridget of All Work - circa 1910
Saint Patrick - the travelling man - circa 1930
The Quest of the Blue Rose
Naughty Sophia - illustr by Ruby Lindsay
The Spires of Oxford, And Other Poems
English writer ? !
No, that is the only thing I know for sure.
But I would bet on 1882-1972 too.
Thank you all for finding the author and the poem.
it's a beautiful poem, sir
as far as I am concerned, I am the one to thank you
for introducing me to it
Googling about, I found this one, too. It has a certain similarity to the other I posted. I wonder if she wrote a lot more with the same theme and rhythm, personalising them for specific audiences - or is that a cynical 21st century marketing ploy. Must admit, I was disappointed to discover this.
The Connaught Rangers
I SAW the Connaught Rangers when they were passing by,
On a spring day, a good day, with gold rifts in the sky.
Themselves were marching steadily along the Liffey quay
An' I see the young proud look of them as if it were to-day!
The bright lads, the right lads, I have them in my mind,
With the green flags on their bayonets all fluttering in the wind.
A last look at old Ireland, a last good-bye maybe,
Then the gray sea, the wide sea, my grief upon the sea!
And when will they come home, says I, when will they see once more
The dear blue hills of Wicklow and Wexford's dim gray shore?
The brave lads of Ireland, no better lads you'll find,
With the green flags on their bayonets all fluttering in the wind!
Three years have passed since that spring day, sad years for them and me.
Green graves there are in Serbia and in Gallipoli.
And many who went by that day along the muddy street
Will never hear the roadway ring to their triumphant feet.
But when they march before Him, God's welcome will be kind,
And the green flags on their bayonets will flutter in the wind.
Winifred Mary Letts
I like to wake up on Sunday morning to Ciaran MacMathuna's weekly program on RTE Radio 1 called 'Mo Cheol Thu'. His programme of Irish music and verse often includes a poem by Winifred Letts.
[www.celticconfederation.org] /> tells you how to download his programme or to hear the stream over the net.
I can confirm that Winifred Letts lived from 1882 - 1972. However some of the biographical detail given above is incorrect. She was born 10 Feb 1882 in either Broughton, Manchester or in Knutsford Cheshire, daughter of Rector Ernest Letts and his wife, Isabel Mary Ferrier of Knockmaroon, beside the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Because she spent so many happy family holidays in Knockmaroon and in Wexford, she decided to attend Alexandra College in Dublin (1898 - ?). After her father's death, the family returned to Ireland and she lived with her mother in a house called Dal Riada in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. In 1926, she married a widower William Henry Foster Verschoyle and they lived in Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin, and visited their farm on the Barrow River in Co. Kildare at weekends. Two of Mr Verschoyle's sons, William Arthur and Francis Stuart, had been killed fighting in the First World War. When Mr Verschoyle died in 1943, she returned to live with her sisters in Kent for some time. In 1950, she returned to the beautiful Beech Cottage in Killiney Co. Dublin where she lived until the very late 1960s and could no longer manage on her own. She then moved to the Tivoli Nursing Home in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin where she died 7th June 1972. She is buried in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin.
Mrs Verschoyle was a great friend of my late mother's.
The Harbour in question is Courtown Harbour, Co. Wexford.
Brilliant - thank you for so much for that information Bairbre - it solves all the mysteries in the thread, in particular why someone so obviously Irish from the poems she wrote is described as an English writer in some sources.
Is there any chance you would have "To a a May baby" by Winifred Letts that you could send to me. I am eagar to give it to my Father for his coming Birthday and can't place my hands on it anywhere.
Niamh O' Brien
the things I don't know ...
thanks for the information ...
Soory Niamh - I haven't lloked at this site in ages - I have just put the poem on another posting.