While in the Glendalough Valley, we wrote almost daily about there not being words for its ancient, mystical beauty and grace.
On our first trip to Cahersiveen, which is the first town to the west of where we are on Kells Bay, we saw the Barracks, the remnants of an old castle, sheep, meadows, the soft lines of the County Kerry landscape, and a bust of and quote from Sigerson Clifford. He is a poet/playwright who was born in Cahersiveen. His given name was Edward Bernard Clifford. His parents were Michael Clifford and Mary Ann Sigerson. He lived his life from 1913 to 1985.
As a writer, young Edward Clifford adopted the first name Sigerson in honour of his maternal family, although he continued to be known as “Eddie” to family and friends. He writes of his Kerry heritage as the voices that come to him on every wind.
I think it is wonderful that Cahersiveen is as proud of the bard of their land as Dublin is proud of Patrick Kavanagh, who you have read some from before and will again for sure. But today, enjoy these words of County Kerry from the marrow of Sigerson Clifford:
I am Kerry
I am Kerry like my mother before me,
And my mother’s mother and her man.
Now I sit on an office stool remembering,
And the memory of them like a fan
Soothes the embers into flame.
I am Kerry and proud of my name.
My heart is looped around the rutted hills,
That shoulder the stars out of the sky,
And about the wasp-yellow fields,
And the strands where kelp-streamers lie;
Where, soft as lovers’ Gaelic, the rain falls,
Sweeping into silver the lacy mountain walls.
My grandfather tended the turf fire,
And, leaning backward into legend,spoke,
Of doings old before quills inked history.
I saw dark heroes fighting in the smoke,
Diarmuid dead inside his Iveragh cave,
And Deirdrie caoining[keening] upon Naoise’s grave.
I see the wise face now with its hundred wrinkles,
And every wrinkle held a thousand tales,
Of Finn and Oscar and Conawn Maol,
And sea-proud Niall whose conquering sails,
Raiding France for slaves and wine,
Brought Patrick to mind Milchu’s swine.
I should have put a noose about the throat of time,
And choked the passing of the hob-nailed years,
And stayed young always, shouting in the hills,
Where life held only fairy fears,
When I was young my feet were bare,
But I drove cattle to the fair.
‘Twas thus I lived, skin to skin with the earth,
Elbowed by the hills, drenched by the billows,
Watching the wild geese making black wedges,
By Skelligs far west and Annascaul of the willows.
Their voices came on every little wind,
Whispering across the half-door of the mind,
For always I am Kerry…
That day we were blessed with the gift of a magnificent rainbow. Yesterday we went with Bruce and Roberta to the Killarney National Park and were privileged to walk up the high hill to the side of Torc Falls. And we were blessed with a magnificent sunset. The play of light is joy.
May you, today be, at least for a time, skin to skin with the earth. May you be elbowed by the hills. May you be drenched by the rain. May you be in awe of the flight of the birds. May the play of light bring joy in your heart. May you know, today, you are one with earth and one with all you encounter.
6 thoughts on “Whispering across the half-door of the mind”
My, my, my. The beauty of the stories you weave with words rivals the beauty of the pictures you send. Thank you for blessing us with both along your way.
Agh, that is Sean Keating! who lives in the old coast guard captains house (Yes Kells had one and it was the site of the only Irish “victory” in the Finian Rising.) I wish the storm of February 2011 had not caused so much damage to the woods behind the house – clean up is posing a real problem, but in any case you will have to walk up and visit the ruins of the Kelly homestead. You seem to be developing such a feel for the Kerry – I think there is some of Clifford’s poem lingering about the place. Before you leave light a candle for the Kelly’s we always do on arrival and departure. And oh yes don’t delay in visiting Agnes – she is a story teller herself! All the Best, PS posting of a personal Irish story to follow one of these days.
Thanks Tad. We will look forward to your post of personal Irish history. We are so enjoying your home and this part of Ireland. We will light a candle for the Kellys.
Clifford’s poem was so perfect it had me scanning. I loved the images. Thanks for widening my anthology of literature.
Edward Cllifford’s words ring a bell – “I see a wise face with a hundred wrinkles. Every wrinkle held a thousand tales.” I don’t know about the “wise” but there ARE a many tales for me to tell of these wrinkles..
Great pictures and oh so many rainbows from Ireland.
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