The School Bag




Ireland’s Own or,
The Burial of Thomas Moore

Sir John Betjeman

In the churchyard of Bromham the yews intertwine
O’er a smooth granite cross of a Celtic design,
Looking quite out of place in surroundings like these
In a corner of Wilts ’twixt the chalk and the cheese.

I can but account you neglected and poor,
Dear bard of my boyhood, mellifluous Moore.
That far from the land which all of you loved best
In a village of England your bones should have rest.

I had rather they lay where the Blackwater glides
When the light of the evening doth burnish its tides
And St Carthage Cathedral’s meticulous spire
Is tipped like the Castle with sun-setting fire.

I had rather some gate-lodge of plaster and thatch
With slim pointed windows and porches to match
Had last seen your coffin drawn out on the road
From a great Irish house to its final abode.

Or maybe a rath with a round tower near                         rath-fortified enclosure         
And the whispering Shannon delighting the ear
And the bog all around and the width of the sky
Is the place where your bones should deservedly lie.

The critics may scorn you and Hazlit may carp
At the ‘Musical Snuff-box’ you made of the Harp;
The regency drawing-rooms that thrilled with your song
Are not the true world to which now you belong.

No! the lough and the mountain, the ruins and rain
And purple-blue distances bound you demesne,
For the tunes to the elegant measures you trod
Have chords of deep longing for Ireland and God. 

1966