This poem is called 'From the Irish'. I was the eighth in my family - it was an Irish family - the first born in England, so I was the only one to that point who hadn't been taught through the medium of Irish at school. So if my elder brothers and sisters wanted to make me paranoid, all they had to do was say something in Irish. So, to overcome the situation, I took an Irish course at the Gaelic League, and was very poor at the subject. A bad workman, I blame my tools: Dineen's Dictionary. Dineen's is the classical dictionary of Irish, but it rather records the use of Irish words as he felt they should be used, as he felt would be the pure ...

This poem is called 'From the Irish'. I was the eighth in my family - it was an Irish family - the first born in England, so I was the only one to that point who hadn't been taught through the medium of Irish at school. So if my elder brothers and sisters wanted to make me paranoid, all they had to do was say something in Irish. So, to overcome the situation, I took an Irish course at the Gaelic League, and was very poor at the subject. A bad workman, I blame my tools: Dineen's Dictionary. Dineen's is the classical dictionary of Irish, but it rather records the use of Irish words as he felt they should be used, as he felt would be the pure use, rather than the way they were used, and, really, I've used those to compose what I suppose is the most unsuccessful love poem of the past fifty years.

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From The Irish

According to Dineen, a Gael unsurpassed
in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish
for moon means ‘the white circle in a slice
of half-boiled potato or turnip’. A star
is the mark on the forehead of a beast
and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well

Well if I say to you your face
is like a slice of half-boiled turnip,
your hair is the colour of a lake’s bottom
and at the centre of each or your eyes
is the mark of the beast, it is because
I want to love you properly, according to Dineen.

from The Bradford Count (Bloodaxe Books, 1991), © Ian Duhig 1991, used by permission of the author.

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