work is collection of three contemporaneous responses to the Easter Rising,
imagined as an interconnected Aisling or
dream — a genre of political poem in which the poet, asleep, sees a vision of a
beautiful young woman, who represents Ireland. She tells the poet of her
sadness at being repressed by foreigners and seeks the poet’s help to free the
country. In this modern aisling, the
allegorical spéirbhean (sky-woman)
embodies the fierce spirit of the radical revolutionary poet Lola Ridge, who
only laments that she is not in Dublin to mount the barricades.
In her Sojourn
in the Whale, Marianne Moore tells Ireland that the injustice and
indignities she suffered and suffers are unbearable; Ireland has passed the
point of no return by entering the belly of the beast.
his Lament for the Poets, Francis Ledwidge sees the spéirbhean in her incarnation as the sean-bhean bhocht (the poor old woman), mourning the loss of her
blackbirds - in particular, Ledwidge’s friend and fellow poet, Thomas MacDonagh
– caught by the fowler. Their loss is lamented by Ireland in her lowliest
have used the traditional Irish slow air The
Lament for Staker Wallace in the final movement. Patrick ‘Staker’ Wallace
was an Irish freedom fighter, brutally executed for pro-independence activities
in 1798, who gained his moniker posthumously, when his decapitated head was
hoisted onto a stake to discourage further insurrection. As the original lyrics
of this air are long since lost, Lament
for the Poets serves as a contrafactum.