Wednesday 18 January 2017

Poetry: Skipping through trampled gold dust from buttercups

Ulick O'Connor

Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30

RTÉ film: An Offering of Swans, in which Ulick O'Connor played Oliver St John Gogarty and recited 'Golden Stockings'
RTÉ film: An Offering of Swans, in which Ulick O'Connor played Oliver St John Gogarty and recited 'Golden Stockings'

If you are driving up Rathgar Road these days, you can't help but recognise the green and gold blanket of the Dublin mountains above you taking in the sun. Though they are a little more than a quarter of an hour from where I live, once you reach them you have ­entered a magic world. I was lucky enough to act up there in a documentary movie I had written for RTÉ, directed by James Plunkett, about the poet Oliver St John Gogarty whom Yeats thought "one of great lyric poets of our time".

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I was excited to be working with James Plunkett as I regarded him, as others do, as a successor in storytelling to Frank O'Connor and Liam O'Flaherty. The mountainy place chosen for the shoot seemed perfect for this section of the film in which the nine-year-old actress playing Gogarty's daughter Brenda skipped joyfully through the meadows of buttercups.

To me 'Golden Stockings' has a feeling of island ecstasy, an intuition that something can't be found like it in a place that isn't surrounded by the ocean. Gogarty thought this one of his best poems, as did Yeats who put more poems of his friend Oliver into his Oxford Book of Modern Verse than anybody else. Wasn't I lucky to be able to recite it in those rustling fields of one of the few capitals which has both mountain and sea on its doorstep?

Golden Stockings

Golden stockings you had on

In the meadow where you ran;

And your little knees together

Bobbed like pippins in the weather,

When the breezes rush and fight

For those dimples of delight,

And they dance from the pursuit,

And the leaf looks like the fruit.

I have many a sight in mind

That would last if I were blind;

Many verses I could write

That would bring me many a sight.

Now I only see but one,

See you running in the sun,

And the gold-dust coming up

From the trampled buttercup.

Oliver St John Gogarty 1878-1957

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