when I could still afford to drink.
smoke hung like mist in singing bars,
redolent of stale stout and tar.
The crack and scene was different then,
the golden age of music men.
strings and reeds soaked sweet in beer
and voices drowned in rebel tears.
T’was all about the music then,
in the rebel drinking dens,
songs by auld fellas and balladeers
all joy then to my straining ears.
joined in music, verse and rhyme
of mountains and verdant glen,
of fair colleens and braver men.
Dragged screaming down the bitter years
by song and cheer by stout and beer.
Whiskey redolent of smoky peat
drawing music and pulling heat
from throats blessed with gifts so rare
to play soft or hum an Irish air.
Tunes composed of Niamh and Fionn
of olden Celtic Queens and Kings,
of day out with the hounds and hares
and other days in marts and fairs.
Sad lays then of the starving days
tougher roads and harder ways.
The music of the hungry years
lands bitter on ale sotted ears.
Stirring hearts to racist hate
and other to a rebel’s fate,
walking dead and hungry roads
to the heaving teeming docks of old
the near dead from the farms and bogs
fighting banshees and starved dogs
for busted rigs four or five a heap,
in stinking holds like dying sheep
seven of ten lost in the deep.
Dreams of home on foreign shores
die in bills on unwelcome doors,
no Paddys wanted here, the cry.
No Micks or dogs need apply.
To ghettos in the windy ways
where men graft hard both night and day
For small respect and smaller pay,
but still brick on brick they lay
to build Irish homes and dynasties.
The last man, a strummer standing now
among the dead men row on row,
the drunken singers in a heap
among stale pleasures twenty deep.
the lessons recited here.
Ring out now so loud and clear
a cure and song come quick and cheap,
But what you sing you surely reap.
©Dave Kavanagh February 2016