Gerard Smyth

An Irish Poet Yearns For Home / Leaving Dover

Gerard Smyth

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( A Dream Song for Thomas MacGreevy )

He was homesick for the white horse

on O’Connell Bridge,

the river flowing from watered hills,

the gulls that screeched in boisterous language

above the monuments to sedition; homesick for

the midnight streets of Dublin shiny in the rain,

Valhalla on the Liffey,

his city of conspiracy that reeked of history

and night-rain hissing at the windows

of National Library, Capuchin Friary.

He was homesick for the city of the unwritten

sentence, the iambics of distress.

The city always waiting for great events – 

city of disappointments,

nagging doubts, homespun sentiment;

the stale voluptuousness

of Sundays spent in the museum

where the attendant in his corner

watched in case he rubbed against

the master strokes on an ancient canvass.


Fair winds and summer tides were in command

and the June sun was hanging like an apple

from the branch. Trusting our captain to be steadfast

I was leaving Dover, on a ship for France –

first time to cross the Channel that seemed

a great expanse of so much water, so many leagues

travelled before by fathers and sons going to war

and the wine-grape connoisseur, a zealot with a map

of the vineyards, a zealot’s knowledge of the alchemy

between root and branch. I was leaving Dover,

the England of Malory and because the coastline

was a white flag radiating from the darkness

I hoped that it would guide us back

to the gravelly shore, Shakespeare’s language. 

Gerard Smyth

Gerard Smyth is a poet, critic and journalist whose poetry has appeared widely in journals in Ireland, Britain and the United States as well as in translation in several languages including Italian, Romanian, French, German, Ukrainian, Spanish and Hungarian.  He has published eight collections of poetry, including, A Song of Elsewhere ( Dedalus Press 2015), and The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems ( Dedalus Press, 2010 ). He was the 2012 recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award presented by the University of St Thomas in Minnesota and is co-editor, with Pat Boran, of If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song ( Dedalus Press ) which was Dublin’s One City One Book in 2013. He is a member of Aosdána.