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The Irish Wolfhound- An Ekphrastic Poem


This poem is based on the Irish Famine painting ‘Black 47’, by the artist Michael Farrell.

I saw the painting last year (Jan 2019) in Derry, Northern Ireland when it was on tour with Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, (Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut). It is a massive painting, 3m x 4.5m, and it dominated the exhibition as its wonderful centrepiece.


The Irish Famine lasted from 1845-1849. One million people died and a further one million people left Ireland.

Follow the link for a look at the painting.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/disturbing-remains-a-story-of-black-47-1.336583/

Notes: Ard Ri (pronounced Ar Dree) is Gaelic for Kings. The Irish Wolfhound is a mythological animal representing Ireland. Lord Trevelyan was Assistant Secretary to the Treasury of the British Government during the Irish Famine.

The Court of the Irish Wolfhound

The Judge asks: Who were they? Before they were bones?

Prosecution states: They were strange, not-quite-human-beings.

Didn’t speak our language, eat the same food,

dress like us, look like us, worship our God.

Too many of them to count.

Defence: They have the blood of the Ard Ri in their veins

and speak an ancient language. No they’re not plotting. Just

singing songs; their songs, and praying

to the same God you do.

Prosecution: When ancient woodland gets in the way of progress

we cut it down, clear the land to turn a profit.

So, when an ancient people is surplus

and gets in the way of progress . . .

Defence: My Lord Trevelyan, what did you do all those years

in the name of your government?

Did you not think these people worth saving?

(Miasma billows, a testament to his actions.)

Evidence: Look, there by the table, shining

bones of a million people who will testify eternally

in the court of the Irish Wolfhound.

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