Friday, 5 February 2016

Raftery the Poet

Actually, while Anthony Raftery (1779 to 1835) was blind and wrote of "playing music to empty pockets," he was quite comfortably off, playing the violin, singing and reciting poetry to fairly well-healed farmers in the taverns of east Galway.

He was nought but a blind beggar-poet,
Cadging a drink when he could,
Getting pennies for performing his verses,
Groping drunkenly at girls in the pub.

 His poems were a blind beggar’s verses,
Though they lived on, bringing him fame.
Gentle folk dreaded his table,
And avoided his presence like plague.

 It was fine to stand at a distance,
Enjoying the flow of his words,
But, did you want to share in his drinking,
Till both you and he slumped to the boards?

Of course, he had plenty companions,
Each one as bad as the next,
Who helped him to drink all his pennies,
While enjoying his rhymes and his verse.

 There were nights filled with singing and music,
When Raftery basked in applause,
And drank his fill of strong whiskey,
Welcoming the oblivion this brought.

Not long in one place could he linger,
For the pennies would soon all dry up.
Off he went with his stick and his knapsack,
To find another town and a pub.

 He often mused on the misfortune
That one’s time and one’s place could bring,
For poets of previous generations
Lived rich lives in the courts of the kings. 

The kings were long gone from Ireland,
And gowls now ruled in their place,
And it was only peasants now sponsored
The literature of his race.



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