In Which the Ancient History I Learn Is Not My Own

Eavan Boland, leading Irish poet and champion of the female voice, dies aged 75: ‘It was her particular gift to reveal the beauty in the ordinary. Over the years, through her poetry, critical work and teaching she displayed an extraordinary ability to invoke Irish landscapes, myth and everyday experience. She became one of the pre-eminent voices in Irish literature, noted for the high standard she sought and achieved. The revealing of a hidden Ireland, in terms of what was suffered, neglected, evaded, given insufficient credit, is a part of her achievement.’

From her poem ‘In Which the Ancient History I Learn Is Not My Own’

And the waters
of the Irish Sea,
their shallow weave
and cross-grained blue-green,
had drained away
to the pale gaze
of a doll’s china eyes:
a stare without recognition or memory.

She put the tip
of the wooden
pointer on the map.
She tapped over ridges and dried-
out rivers and cities buried in
the sea and sea-scapes which
had once been land.
And came to a stop.

The Roman Empire
was the greatest
Empire ever known.
(Until our time of course.)
Remember this, children.
In those days,
the Delphic Oracle was reckoned
to be the exact centre of the earth.

I wanted
to stand in front of it.
I wanted to trace over
and over the weave of
my own country and read out
names I was next to forgetting.
Wicklow. Kilruddery. Dublin.

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