Tuesday 20 March 2018

Irish hockey star who struck gold with his poetry

Poet Patrick MacDonagh
Poet Patrick MacDonagh

Ulick O'Connor

Patrick MacDonogh, whose 55th anniversary of his death occurs this year, was considered by many as the best hockey left half in the world. He played on a famous Irish international team which won the hockey triple crown three years in succession (1937-1939).

Like many a good Protestant at the time, he worked for Guinness as an executive. He was also a magnificent poet, highly praised by Yeats and is included in the Faber Book of Irish Verse.

Irish poetry in the first half of the 20th century had followed Douglas Hyde in using the stressed rhythms of Gaelic verse rather than the syllabic structure of current English poetry. This group of which MacDonogh (inset) was one included FR Higgins, Valentin Iremonger, Donagh MacDonagh and Austin Clarke.

Try saying out loud the first line of the poem below: "Oh, she walked unaware of her own increasing beauty". After a few goes the tune will come up. Then you're away.

from She Walked Unaware

Oh, she walked unaware of her own increasing beauty

That was holding men's thoughts from market to plough,

As she passed by intent on her womanly duties

And she without leisure to be wayward or proud;

Or if she had pride then it was not in her thinking

But thoughtless in her body like a flower of good breeding.

The first time I saw her spreading coloured linen

Beyond the green willow she gave me gentle greeting

With no more intention than the leaning willow tree.

… … … … … … …

October is spreading bright flame along stripped willows,

Low fires of the dogwood burn down to grey water -

God pity me now and all desolate sinners

Demented with beauty! I have blackened my thought….

Since a lover came with his rapture of wild words that mirrored

Her beauty and made her ungentle and proud.

To-night she will spread her brown hair on his pillow,

But I shall be hearing the harsh cries of wild fowl.

Patrick MacDonogh 1902-1961

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