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.
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.