Grey noons by the old canal

Here’s another sonnet by the Irish poet Thomas Caulfield Irwin, born in Warrenpoint in County Down in 1823. He was very much influenced by English poets of the era, but he has such evocative imagery… ‘grey noons’, slopes of stubble figures’, ‘noiseless dizzy midges’, ‘the yellow sallows’… it’s the sort of poem I would have loved to given my students when I was still teaching, it’s so vivid and easy to imagine two hundred years after it was written, walking along that same old canal, and seeing ‘blue water-flies by starts jettingly pass.’

Irwin seems to have had a troubled life, despite being born to a comfortably off family, but his poetry endures:

Grey noons by the old canal

I walk of grey noons by the old canal
Where rain-drops patter on the autumn leaves,
Now watching from some ivied orchard wall
In slopes of stubble figures pile the sheaves;
Or under banks in shadow of their grass,
Blue water-flies by starts jettingly pass
‘Mid large leaves level on the glassy cool;
Or noiseless dizzy midges winking round
The yellow sallows of the meadow pool;
While into cloudy silence ebbs each sound,
And sifts the moulting sunlight warm and mellow
O’er sandy beach remote, or slumberous flood,
Or rooky, red brick mansion by the wood,
Mossed gate, or farmyard hay-stacks tanned and yellow.

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