As in many languages, the Irish for 'to faint' is 'to fall into a weakness': titim i laige. The weakness in the poem here is one suffered by the man who bought our farm, a friend of ours. My father died at 52, he died at 46. It was said to be a hard farm to work.

The Weakness

It was the frosty early hours when finally
The cow’s despairing groans rolled him from bed
And into his boots, hardly awake yet.
He called ‘Dan! come on, Dan!
She’s calving,’ and stumbled without his coat
Down the icy path to the haggard.

Castor and Pollux were fixed in line
Over his head but he didn’t see them,
This night any more than another.
He crossed to the stall, past the corner
Of the fairy-fort he’d levelled last May.
But this that stopped him, like the mind’s step

Backward: what was that, more insistent
Than the calf’s birth-pangs? ‘Hold on, Dan.
I think I’m having a weakness.
I never had a weakness, Dan, before.’
And down he slid, groping for the lapels
Of the shocked boy’s twenty-year-old jacket.

from Selected Poems (Faber, 2008), © Bernard O’Donoghue 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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