Rising Poems: 'The Wayfarer' by Patrick Pearse
The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass;
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk,
Or little rabbits in a field at evening,
Lit by a slanting sun,
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven;
Or children with bare feet upon the sands
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets
Of little towns in Connacht,
Things young and happy.
And then my heart hath told me:
These will pass,
Will pass and change, will die and be no more,
Things bright and green, things young and happy;
And I have gone upon my way
An Assessment of 'The Wayfarer' by Dr Lucy Collins
'The Wayfarer' reflects on the fleeting beauty of life's journey at a moment of decisive personal and political change. Alternating rhythms capture its shifting moods of sorrow and joy.
Yet, as its style and language suggest, this is a nostalgic work - here, a timeless ideal is a greater source of imaginative power than the immediacy of lived experience.
The 'green' and 'quiet' hill evokes perfect peace, but also reveals the passage of time through seasonal patterns of planting and harvesting.
The biblical resonance of the scene is reinforced by the image of the gates of heaven, which open the poem to a space of redemption often invoked by the poets of 1916.
This poem's air of melancholy does not derive directly from political events, however, but from the life that is slipping from the speaker's grasp.
Written shortly before Pearse's execution, it shows the poet seeking to come to terms with his impending death.
Dr Lucy Collins is a lecturer in English at University College Dublin (UCD). She is the curator of 'Reading 1916', a forthcoming exhibition at UCD Special Collections
Dr Lucy Collins is a lecturer in English at University College Dublin (UCD). She is the curator of 'Reading 1916', a forthcoming exhibition at UCD Special Collections.
Dr Lucy Collins of University College Dublin has written about ten key poems inspired by the Easter Rising. Each poem is available via the links below along with exclusive commentary from Dr Collins.
Read: ‘The Mother’, by Patrick Pearse
Read: ‘I See His Blood Upon the Rose’, by Joseph Plunkett
Read: ‘The Foggy Dew’, by Canon Charles O’Neill
Read: ‘The Wayfarer’, by Patrick Pearse
Read: ‘Easter 1916’, by WB Yeats
Read: ‘Connolly’, by Liam Mac Gabhann
Read: ‘Wishes for my Son’, by Thomas MacDonagh
Read: ‘Comrades’, by Eva Gore-Booth
Read: ‘Sixteen Dead Men’, by WB Yeats
Read: ‘Imperial Measure’, by Vona Groarke