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DESMOND O'GRADY

 

Desmond O'Grady

Desmond O’Grady was born in Limerick in 1935. He left during the 1950s to teach and write in Paris, Rome and America. His publications include many collections of his own poems and also collections of translated poetry in addition to prose memoirs of literary acquaintances and friends. His most recent book is My Limerick Town, White House Press, 2009. He lives in Kinsale.

 

 

 

 

The Headless Body

From the Irish Gaelic of Aonghas O Dalaigh (16th century)

A lament for the rebel leader Fiach McHugh O'Byrne

 

I see your body headless

stuck on Dublin’s steel spikes.

The sight stuns me senseless.

We poets never lost your likes.

 

Your body impaled before me

a spectacle to our great crowd.

Today your horror all may see,

yesterday your courage our byword.

 

Once a fine figure with grand grace,

now as I behold you horribly

quartered my heart drains my face,

my mind dismembers my memory.

 

The sight blinds even my blindside,

weakens the strength of my stride.

Seeing you spiked tightens my hide.

Your tragedy shouts worldwide.

 

Now who’ll help the poor, patronize

our teachers and poets too?

O body, now that you hang headless

‘twere better not to live after you.

 

Who now will recompense the scholars,

give hospitality, entertain?

With you butchered so, in quarters,

who will provide our wine?

 

Your four limbs hacked by butchery

stuck on four sharp steel stakes

before me here in Dublin city

beggars my heart with blindness.

 

Your headless torso has now truly

left green Leinster’s good men

without the harp of hospitality

to cultured conversation.

 

Your tortured torso’s a woeful sight.

Giver of weapons and horses,

hacked apart by an alien’s hatchet,

limbs chopped off with curses.

 

Legion the laments of your history.

Our hero’s headless horror

stuck up on spikes indifferently,

changed in colour and contour.

 

Telling tales of their travels like lords

I heard foreign friends in your fort;

gossip for girls, versed by your bards.

Shut silent now that court.

 

Great grief! Beheaded in your glory

who spoiled enemy territory,

you’re now denied the honour our history

should give your buried body.

 

Before I witnessed your sacrifice

brave son of Aodh’s brave kind,

my grief’s that my heart did not rise,

that my eye was not blind.

 

We’ll never again see to emulate

your strong stride, warm hand;

no more admire your noble head’s shape,

a noble image of Ireland.

 

 

©2010 Desmond O'Grady

 

 

Author Links

 

Video: Conversation and Poetry by Desmond O'Grady

O'Grady in the MLC Writers Index

John Liddy essay on Desmond O'Grady

 

 

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