Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

An Irish Journey - An Interval

On the Wednesday we had a quiet day and I took the opportunity to go for a walk round the grounds and along a few local lanes. It was cold and windy but at least the sun was shining. Caher House is on the banks of the lough and this boat was on one of the little jetties, you can see from the little white horses on the water how windy it was.

Once I reached the top of the drive I turned left and walked up the lane, there were lots of wild flowers along the hedgerows and thanks to Southern Ireland's mild climate they were well ahead of those in the north of England. This is Greater Stitchwort which is only just coming into flower here a month later than those in the photograph.

There were lots of daisies - as a child I spent many happy hours making daisy chains to wear as a necklace or a crown:)

There were a great many violets growing in the shelter of hedge banks too and I've seen more round here this Spring than I've ever seen before. It is among the earliest of the wildflowers, not obvious unless you are looking for it and gone before full summer comes in.

'A violet in the youth of primy Nature
Forward, not permanent,sweet,not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
No more.'

From Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Everywhere we went in Ireland there was blackthorn, great clouds of white blossom on the leafless branches - it definitely brought with it the Blackthorn Winter too.

The lane ran alongside the lough and eventually I came to the point where it ended. Lough Graney (Greine in Gaelic) is the largest lake in Co Clare and yet in all the time we were there I only saw two mallard and a heron on it. I found it a rather forbidding and unfriendly stretch of water though apparently it's a wonderful place if you're a keen angler.

The road crossed the end of the lough by this bridge and I could see that there was a little stony area at the edge of the water so I scrambled down the bank to have a closer look.

When I peered under the arches I could see the little River Graney beginning its journey to Lough O'Grady, from there it becomes the River Scarriff and eventually flows into the River Shannon.

At the side of the road where the lough ended stood this large stone. At first I didn't see the writing on it and when I did I couldn't understand what it said as it's in Gaelic. I took a photograph of it anyway and when I got home I enlarged it and copied the words of the title into Google to see whether I could find out what it said.

To my surprise 'Cúirt An Mheán Oíche' turned out to be the Gaelic title of a long poem called in English 'The Midnight Court' and this is a translation of the lines on the stone.

’Twas my custom to stroll by a clear winding stream,
With my boots full of dew from the lush meadow green,
Near a neck of the woods where the mountain holds sway,
Without danger or fear at the dawn of the day.
The sight of Lough Graney would dazzle my eyes,
As the countryside sparkled beneath the blue skies;
Uplifting to see how the mountains were stacked,
Each head peeping over a neighbouring back.

It was written by an Irish poet called Brian Merryman who lived from 1749 to 1805. He was born in Ennystymon but lived and taught for many years in Feakle a village which is just a few miles from Caher. It is apparently the greatest comic poem in Irish literature and has influenced the work of modern Irish poets Seamus O'Heaney and Thomas Kinsella. More detective work produced the information that this stone is actually a memorial to Brian Merryman and was unveiled by Seamus O'Heaney who in a lecture in 1993 said

"Perhaps I can convey the ongoing reality of the poem's life more simply by recollecting a Saturday evening last August when I had the privilege of unveiling a memorial to Brian Merriman on the shore of Lough Graney in Co. Clare, where the opening scene of 'The Midnight Court' is set. The memorial is a large stone quarried from a hill overlooking the lake, and the opening lines are carved on it in Irish."

I was out for a couple of hours exploring the local area but eventually I returned to a nice cup of coffee and the log fire. This wonderful old tree stands on the lawn in front of Caher House. Hopefully there won't be such a long gap until the final Irish post:)


Thimbleanna said...

Isn't the internet wonderful? I'm so impressed that you could find out so much information about the quote on the stone. Your photos are beautiful too -- what a gorgeous place to visit!

Patricia said...

I'm loving your Irish journey and with you step by step. The photos are great. Patricia

val's alentejo said...

What a priveledge to unviel the stone.
This is a most interesting post Rowan.
I love the way the writing is in green!
the poem is sweet..full of gaiety..
I would love to make a visit to Ireland one day.
great photos.
kind regards

Kathy said...

Ireland looks lovely .... I haven't been beyond Dublin and Belfast. Great research too, in finding the translation. Technology hey!!!

Nan said...

I very much enjoyed this posting. The pictures, the descriptions, the poem about violets, the stone and your learning about it. So interesting your feelings about the water. Isn't it the truth that places can make us feel a particular way. There are two or three roads near me that I really don't like being on.

Jessica Cangiano said...

Wonderful detective work, Rowan! I love that you merged the worlds of the old and new by using Google Translate to determine that the engraving was a classic Irish poem. Thank you for sharing it with us, dear lady.

Many thanks, too, for your immensely nice comment on my vintage outfit post this week, I sincerely appreciate it.

Wishing you a beautiful Wednesday,

Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely walk, and amazing just coming upon that stone like that. I loved the verse you quoted. When I was in Ireland, I have to say, I didn't see that many birds either, and yet we travelled from one side to the other and back again.

Rosie said...

What a wonderful walk! I love your photo of the upturned boat near the lough. I also like the sound of returning to coffee and a log fire after your walk:)

Mary said...

I should make time to study more Irish history - it's all so interesting. Thanks for sharing all these beautiful pics Rowan - of course daisies and violets are two of my favorites.

Mary x

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

Howdy do! So nice that you came by! I've been browsing your recent posts and reliving my trip to Ireland. I was one who crept to the ledge at the cliffs, but I did it on my knees! It was a thrill, but it gave me too much vertigo to look over standing up. And the wind was fierce. I can't imagine it now as you describe it. When we were there we walked from Doolin to the cliffs and back! Happy trails to you!

Bella said...

Hi Rowan,
What an amazing trip, so much quiet beauty! I love all the little wildflowers and the violets poem is lovely!

elaine rickett said...

I can see why you have enjoyed your trip so much - it really is a beautiful place.

Cheryl said...

Lovely post Rowan,

I love the great that you took the time to find the translation.
If I was clever enough I could have written it because it is just how I feel most of the time.

I love violets and found a patch this year a ten minute walk from my home. I found the white form as well, which was a lovely surprise as they are (I believe) less common than they used to be.

Beautiful tree......

Anonymous said...

A trip filled with history and such beauty, I felt a tear in my eye as I read. You truly are a gifted writer Rowan. All your pictures were beautiful but the first one reminds me of a time long ago...
Have a Happy Mother's day
Hugs Rosemary...xox
P.S. I checked your weather it's raining again!!!

Rosewalk Cottage said...

Hi Rowan!
I love your Irish journey and the poem is so lovely. Thank you for stopping by and have a nice day.

Heidi said...

What a wonderful journey! I love wildflowers. We have a tiny patch Jos did not mow in our grass at Cranberry Cottage with tiny daisies blooming. That makes me smile.

That tree is totally amazing! What a beautiful form!

Hugs from Holland ~

Zuzana said...

What a beautiful post.;) When I stated to write my blog almost 4 years back, I was in a relationship with an Irishman. Unfortunately we were not a very good match, but he made me fall in love with Ireland, even if I never managed to visit the country. Thnak you for sharing the beauty of this enticing land with us.
I hope you have been well, I am back from my break and am looking forward to start blogging on regular bases again.;)

Nella said...

To be able to take such a walk, Rowan....lovely...I can feel the briskness from the photos....thank you for such a wonderful little sojourn...and that tree, is beautiful, it's perfect shape, standing all alone..a work of art! N.xo

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful tour. The pictures are so pretty and the poem is beautiful !! I'm glad you found it.
I would love to visit Ireland, well... maybe someday ; )
Hugs from The Netherlands.