This is the seventh poem in Michael Hartnett’s A Farewell to English.
The road is not new.
I am not a maker of new things.
I cannot hew
out of the vacuumcleaner minds
the sense of serving dead kings.
I am nothing new
I am not a lonely mouth
trying to chew
a niche for culture
in the clergy-cluttered south.
But I will not see
great men go down
who walked in rags
from town to town
finding English a necessary sin
the perfect language to sell pigs in.
I have made my choice
and leave with little weeping:
I have come with meagre voice
To court the language of my people.
7 responses to “Michael Hartnett again”
Thank you for the poem, Brendano. It is to do with our earlier conversation, as you know.
I see that Michael Hartnett left Dublin in 1974, and went to Templeglantine. He decided that he would return to his rural roots, and write only in Irish, and not in English, ‘the perfect language to sell pigs in’.
From what I have read, he felt no tension between Irish and English as a boy at home. It was only at school that he realized that Irish was considered an endangered language.
He made his choice.
Yes. He was a brave artist, although I think he did write in English again later. Do you like the poem?
He would have been great company in a pub in Croom or Kilmallock on a Saturday afternoon.
I like the poem very much. It is a poem about love and the power of individual will.
In the face of history and the present, one does not have to ‘go with the flow’ if one doesn’t want to. This is why I don’t really like your ‘shout in the street’ idea.
‘God is a shout in the street’? I’m not sure that that contradicts what you say about going with the flow. I like it better than the idea of a personal God.
I have not explained myself properly. You mentioned that you like the idea of going with the flow in the ‘God is a shout in the street’ post.
I think that one can choose NOT to go with the flow. Tides can be turned.
This is what Hartnett is talking about.
I see, Cymbeline. Yes, you’re right. Some must go against the flow or the result will be chaos and rootlessness, I suppose.