Ever since spending 18 days in May roving around the Emerald Isle, I have been in love with all things Irish. The fairytale landscapes, the friendly people, the cheery yet haunting music, and its lively pub culture.
But before I ever set a foot on its storied shores, I was in love with its writers––Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, C. S. Lewis, and the list goes on. It’s remarkable, actually, that so many of the greatest writers came from this rocky island that is roughly the size of Indiana.
The Irish poem quotes below are all pulled from Irish Verse: An Anthology from the Dover Thrift Edition series, and it’s divided into three segments: “Poems from the Irish,” “Anonymous Street Songs and Ballads,” & “Poetry in English Since Swift.”
8 Irish Poem Quotes
1.”Three keys that most unlock our secret thinking Are love and trustfulness and over-drinking.” ––Early Irish Triads
2. “My life drifts downward with the drifting sea; Old age has caught and compassed me about, The tides of time run out.”––The Olde Woman of Beare (circa 9th century)
3. “When Eire first rose from the dark-swelling flood, God blessed the green island, and saw it was good; The emerald of Europe, it sparkled and shone, In the ring of the world, the most precious stone. In her sun, in her soil, in her station thrice blest, With her back towards Britain, her face to the west, Eire stands proudly insular, on her steep shore, And strikes her high harp ’mid the ocean’s deep roar.”––”Eire” by William Drennan (the first to call Ireland “The Emerald Isle.”)
4. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” ––”The Second Comng” by William Butler Yeats
5. “The beauty of the world hath made me sad, This beauty that will pass;” –– “The Wayfarer” by P.H. Pearse (he was executed for his part in the 1916 uprising of the Irish Republican Brotherhood).
6. “As a white candle In a holy place, So is the beauty Of an agèd face.” ––”The Old Woman” by Joseph Campbell
7. “Draw in your stools, good folk, for heating And gaze into mine eyes, And see what sets the kind hearts beating, Where the lonesome cricket cries.” ––”Song of a Turf-Sod” by William Dara
8. “No thought had I Save that the moon was fair, And fair the sky, And God was everywhere. I chanted as the wind went by A poet’s prayer.” ––”The Whisperer” by James Stephens