Louis MacNeice

Grey brick upon brick
Declamatory bronze
On somber pedestals
O’Connell, Grattan, Moore
And the brewery tugs and the swans
On the balustraded stream
And the bare bones of a fanlight
Over a hungry door
And the air soft on the cheek
And porter running from the taps
With a head of yellow cream
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse

This never was my town
I was not born or bred
Nor schooled here and she will not
Have me alive or dead
But yet she holds my mind
With her seedy elegance
With her gentle veils of rain
And all her ghosts that walk
And all that hide behind
Her Georgian facades
The catcalls and the pain
The glamour of her squalor
The bravado of her talk

The lights jig in the river
With a concertina movement
And the sun comes up in the morning
Like barley-sugar on the water
And the mist on the Wicklow hills
Is close, as close
As the peasantry were to the landlord
As the Irish to the Anglo-Irish
As the killer is close one moment
To the man he kills
Or as the moment itself
Is close to the next moment

She is not an Irish town
And she is not English
Historic with guns and vermin
And the cold renown
Of a fragment of Church latin
Of an oratorical phrase
But oh the days are soft
Soft enough to forget
The lesson better learnt
The bullet on the wet
Streets, the crooked deal
The steel behind the laugh
The Four Courts burnt

Fort of the Dane
Garrison of the Saxon
Augustan capital
Of a Gaelic nation
Appropriating all
The alien brought
You give me time for thought
And by a juggler’s trick
You poise the toppling hour
O greyness run to flower
Grey stone, grey water
And brick upon grey brick

This is a poem by Louis MacNeice. The first verse is read by Luke Kelly as an intro to the song Nelson’s Farewell.