Colmcille on Exile

by Paul Muldoon

from Irish circa 1,000 C.E.

It would be such a blast, O Son of God,
to be able to scud
across the heavy seas
to Ireland, to go back to the exquisite

Plain of Eolarg, back to Benevanagh,
to go back across the Foyle
and listen to the swans
singing at full

tilt as my boat, the Dew-Red,
puts in to port,
with the very seagulls coming out
for a ticker tape parade.

I sigh constantly to be in Ireland,
where I still had some authority,
rather than living among foreigners,
dejected, dog-tired.

A pity, O King of Mysteries,
I was ever forced off my home turf,
a pity I ever got caught up
in the Battle of Cul Dreimhne.

Isn’t it well for Cormac of Durrow
to be back there in his cell
listening to the self-same sounds
that once lifted up my soul,

the wind in the elm tree
getting us into the swing,
the blackbird’s droll lamentation
as it claps its wings,

the early morning belling
of a herd of big bucks,
the music of summer edging through woodland
from the cuckoos’ beaks…

The three things I left behind
I liked best on earth
were Durrow, Derry of the heavenly choirs,
and Gartan, my place of birth.

I so loved being in Ireland
and still rail against being displaced.
To hang with Comgall in Bangor, Canice in Kilkenny,
it would be such a blast.