Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Katharine Tynan's boys in colours

Dublin poet Katharine Tynan's two sons went to war. It was the war to end all wars they went to. Many other Dubliners joined them. For most it was a one way trip.

Joining the Colours
West Kents, Dublin 1914

There they go marching all in step so gay!
Smooth-cheeked and golden, food for shells and guns.
Blithely they go as to a wedding day,
The mothers' sons.

The drab street stares to see them row on row
On the high tram-tops, singing like the lark.
Too careless-gay for courage, singing they go
Into the dark.

With tin whistles, mouth-organs, any noise,
They pipe the way to glory and the grave;
Foolish and young, the gay and golden boys
Love cannot save.

High heart! High courage! The poor girls they kissed
Run with them: they shall kiss no more, alas!
Out of the mist they stepped - into the mist
Singing they pass.

Katharine Tynan


  1. those last two lines - what a finish! thanks Gwilym

  2. Viewing this poetry with the hindsight of how terrible the war was makes it all the more poignant, doesn't it? Do you know the first world war poem "The Naming of Parts"? It is one of my favourites but can't offhand remember the poet.

  3. Thanks John and Weaver. The Naming of Parts is by Henry Reed (1914-1986). I have read it many times. It must be worth learning by heart, and probably not too difficult to do so. I may give it a try. I could write it out on the back of one of my old xmas cards and carry it around with me.


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