Tuesday 15 October 2019

Rising Poems: 'The Mother' by Patrick Pearse

The Mother

I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho' I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow - And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.

An Assessment of 'The Mother' by Dr Lucy Collins

The voice in this poem is both personal and universal – it is the voice of Pearse’s own mother yet it speaks too for all those torn between grief and exultation. The poem interweaves opposites: strength and brokenness; failure and triumph; sorrow and joy. In simple language it indicates the complex emotions aroused by the Rising and evokes the shared experiences that bind nation and family together.

The lasting significance of the rebellion is claimed in religious terms, reflecting Pearse’s vision of blood sacrifice as essential to renewal. Yet the feelings expressed here are also private ones: recollecting the men in childhood, the speaker hints at their purity and idealism.

Like the actions of the revolutionaries themselves, the poem links the new and the ancient. It speaks of the immediate impact of the rebels’ actions, yet it also expresses the suffering that is at the heart of the human condition.

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.

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