Joyce’s best moon poem

Another moon poem, a slightly archaic feeling one from James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach. It’s a Galway poem too though, which distinguishes it, and unusually for Joyce seems to be spoken by a woman mourning a lost lover. The situation, and some of the turns of language (‘falls softly, softly falling) is recognisable from his short story ‘The Dead’, and both apparently derive from his wife Nora’s youthful experience of love with the miserable young Michael Bodkin (or Furey), who stood outside her window in the rain, and shortly thereafter died and was buried in Rahoon (or Oughterard in the story). Though the theme is touching there persists just hint of jealousy on the part of the author, something on which Joyce throve (and built Ulysses). Still, its conspicuous remembering the dead seems fitting for All Souls Night, and for me makes a good prelude to the Yeats poem of that name (set in Oxford) which I hope everyone reads tonight.

She weeps over Rahoon

Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling,
Where my dark lover lies.
Sad is voice that calls me,sadly calling,
At grey moonrise.

Love, hear thou
How soft, how sad his voice is ever calling,
Ever unanswered, and the dark rain falling,
Then as now.

Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold
As his sad heart has lain
Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould
And muttering rain.

Nowadays you might weep over Rahoon for other reasons, but that’s another story. You can however visit Michael Bodkin’s grave in the cemetary – Joyce did this himself, as well as taking a trip to Oughterard to see the more fictional resting place. I did this and fittingly it plummet-rained. But as the American said, it only rains here between the showers.

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~ by thebicyclops on November 1, 2010.

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