Saturday 10 December 2016

Ulick O'Connor - Poetry: Best seven-liner that can easily draw a tear

Published 14/08/2016 | 02:30

A portrait of Irish poet William Allingham, whose works include 'Day and Night Songs' by his wife Helen, from 1876.
A portrait of Irish poet William Allingham, whose works include 'Day and Night Songs' by his wife Helen, from 1876.

William Allingham, the Irish poet of the Victorian era (among his friends were Tennyson, Carlyle and Rossetti), could snap a scene with his mind's eye and preserve it in verse rather than keep it on a phone chip.

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The Allingham method has the advantage of the talkie over the silent film in that you can hear it as well as see it.

If you read certain poems of his out loud, you can be taken on a trip outside yourself.

One day on a lunch break in Ballyshannon when he was a bank clerk, Allingham saw some ducks on the water and immediately immortalised them in seven lines of magical verse, which are as alive today as when the poet first saw them in a Donegal town.

It's the best seven-liner in the language, and can draw a tear from the eye of many a sceptical reader. Try it out yourself. There is still enough sky around this summer to look up and capture an Allingham take.

FOUR DUCKS ON A POND

Four ducks on a pond,

A grass-bank beyond,

A blue sky of spring,

White clouds on the wing;

What a little thing

To remember for years-

To remember with tears!

William Allingham 1824-1889

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