Elliptical Movements

A blog by Billy Mills

Mary Eva Kelly: Irish Woman Poet

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Mary Eva Kelly (1826–1910), better known as Eva of The Nation, was born in Headford, Co. Galway. She wrote poems from an early age . An enthusiastic supporter of the Young Irelanders, she published in The  United Irishman, The Felon and The Irish Tribune as well as Thomas Davis’ paper, The Nation. Her poems were collected in 1909.  The felon in the poem of that name was her fellow Young Irelander, John Mitchel.


‘Tis Ireland’s rallying cry,
We’ll raise it to the sky,
With flashing sword and eye —
The Felon!

‘Tis loud as trumpet’s call,
To rouse the sleepers all.
To strive — to strike — to fall! —
The Felon.

That great voice struck the chime
Of a new and wondrous time —
Those deep tones rang sublime
Through the land.

Never combat wrong with wrong;
In truth alone be strong!
Rise boldly — and, ere long
You are free!

Now, in this time of woe,
That Gospel truth we know,
No parley with the foe
Shall we hold.

As summer foliage riven
By the arrows of the levin,
From our hearts is softness driven
By that blow.

‘Tis the silent, brooding hour,
‘Twixt the strife of Right with Power,
Dark, lurid glances lower

Each red-hot passion, lo!
In this its liquid flow,
We mould as steel, that so
We avenge!

By the laws that maddening mock,
By the convict-ship and dock,
By that parting’s bitter shock,
Stand prepared!

By the all-unconquered mien,
In the final moment seen,
Undaunted and serene,
Nerve your hearts!

By his words, like sabre swing.
Calm, keen, unwavering.
To the winds endurance fling
From this day.

By the sacrifice that sealed
The doctrine he revealed,
Think, now, but of the field.
And of him.

For one, for two, for three!
Ay, hundreds, thousands, see.
For vengeance and for thee!
To the last!

Oh, surely shall we show
To that base, detested foe,
That even in wrong and woe
The victory was thine!


Written by Billy Mills

12/07/2014 at 20:51

Posted in Irish Women Poets, Poetry

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Elizabeth Mary Little: Irish Woman Poet

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Not much is known about the life of Elizabeth Mary Little; even her name is somewhat in doubt, as she is also known as Lucy Mary and Lizzie Mary. She was born in Roscommon in1864 and dies in Bray in 1909. She was one of three daughters of Joseph Bennett Little, who is believed to have gambled away the family fortune. Her sister Grace (who married Ernest Rhys), also wrote, and her other sister Isabella wrote an introduction to her posthumous Poems (1909).

A Whisper

When the grip of the black frost tightened
And hurricane winds held strife,
So weary was I of the winter
I almost wearied of life.

No sun on the level horizon,
No glimmer of blue, or green,
Only the winds’ wild pinions
Grey sky and grim earth between.

Then low in my ear a whisper
Rejoiced me exceedingly,
So dear in its dream of beauty
It dropped out of faerie.

‘Sweeter than horns of elfland
You’ll hear down a whitethorn lane,
In exquisite April weather,
The cuckoo calling again.’

Ah! some of us children of summer
So steadfastly mourn the sun,
Our eyes are fixed on the zenith
Where yearly his race is run.

‘What of the gold of his arrows,
What of the light?’ — we say,
‘What of the tarrying seconds
Should bear to us back the day?’

He is well on his wondrous journey,
His progress of royal state,
With banners and woodland music
Earth moves to meet him elate:

With music and woodland banners
Of ever-beloved green,
And the opening eyes of the snowdrops
Each tremulous tress between.

But now ’tis my heart that whispers
Pulsing a glad refrain:
‘Soon, soon, not in dreams but daylight
I shall hear it close and plain.’

Yes, sweeter than horns of elfland,
Hard by, in a whitethorn lane,
By the gold-crowned Hill of Killiney
The cuckoo calling again!

Written by Billy Mills

06/07/2014 at 20:20

Posted in Irish Women Poets, Poetry

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Eleanor Rogers Cox: Irish Woman Poet

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Eleanor Rogers Cox (1865-1931?) was born in Enniskillen and spent most of her life in the United States. Her poetry is mainly concerned with Irish themes. Biographical details are sketchy, but her work was widely anthologised and she published several collections, one of which, A Hosting of Heroes and Other Poems, was published in Dublin in 1911. ‘Cuchulain’s Wooing’ was included in A. P. Graves’ The Book of Irish Poetry (Dublin, no date given).

Cuchulain’s Wooing

Great-limbed and swift and beautiful
Past any dream, he came to her,

From Emain Macha through a land
For gladness of the Spring astir.

And on the flutes of Morning blown,
Strong Joy that took for breath no pause,

The song of Breeze and Stream and Bird,
The herald of his coming was.

Yea, and through all her April ways,
To Erin’s utmost sea-girt rim.

Through waking seed, and blade and leaf.
Green Nature laughed for joy of him.

And where he held his sun-bright course,
Straight-sped as arrow on its flight.

Men thronged as to a pageant wrought
By the high gods for their delight.

And seeing, with a fairer faith
The Deathless Mighty Ones adored,

Who thus unto their Ulster’s need
Had shaped at once a shield and sword,

So through the singing land he passed,
The peerless warden of her fame,

So, Lord himself of Love and War,
Unto his fair-faced love he came,



Written by Billy Mills

27/06/2014 at 20:00

Posted in Irish Women Poets, Poetry

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Emily Henrietta Hickey: Irish Woman Poet

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Emily Henrietta Hickey (1845–1923) was born in Enniscorthy, Wexford and studied and later lectured in Cambridge. In addition to several collections of poems she also published short stories and was a co-founder of the Browning Society.  ‘Beloved, it is morn!’ was set to music by Florence Aylward and digitalised versions of cylinder recordings by tenors Charles Hackett and Harry Anthony are available here.

Beloved, it is morn!

Beloved, it is morn!
A redder berry on the thorn,
A deeper yellow on the corn,
For this good day new-born.
Pray, Sweet, for me
That I may be
Faithful to God and thee.

Beloved, it is day!
And lovers work, as children play,
With heart and brain untired alway:
Dear love, look up and pray.
Pray, Sweet, for me
That I may be
Faithful to God and thee.

Beloved, it is night!
Thy heart and mine are full of light,
Thy spirit shineth clear and white,
God keep thee in His sight!
Pray, Sweet, for me
That I may be
Faithful to God and thee.

Written by Billy Mills

06/06/2014 at 17:27

Posted in Irish Women Poets, Poetry

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Ella Young: Irish Woman Poet

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Ella Young (1867-1956) was born in Antrim and educated in Dublin, where she took her MA in Trinity College and was involved in the local branch of the Theosophical Society. She was a member of Cumann na mBan wand was involved in the 1916 rising. Later she moved to the USA and taught at University of California, Berkeley. She published a number of collections of Irish folklore, short stories for children and poems. Twilight appeared in New songs : a lyric selection (1904) edited by George Russell (AE).


The sky is silver pale with just one star,
One lonely wanderer from the shining host
Of Night’s companions. Through the drowsy woods
The shadows creep and touch with quietness
The curling fern heads and the ancient trees.
The sea is all aglimmer with faint lights
That change and move as if the crystal prow
Of Naive cleft unseen its waveless floor,
And Naive stood there with the magic token,
The apple-branch with silver singing leaves.
The wind has stolen away as though it feared
To stir the fringes of her faery mantle
Dream-woven in the land of Heart’s Desire:
And all the world is hushed as though she called
Ossian again, and no one answered her.


Written by Billy Mills

26/05/2014 at 20:34

Posted in Irish Women Poets, Poetry

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War Poetry

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My review of From the Line: Scottish War Poetry 1914-1945, edited by David Goldie and Roderick Watson and published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, is on-line on Guardian Books.

It is interesting to read From the Line alongside Gerald Dawe’s Earth Voices Whispering: An Anthology of Irish War Poetry 1914-45. Dawe has more wars to play with, given the nature of 20th century Irish history, and his anthology covers World War I, the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, the Irish and Spanish Civil Wars and The Emergency, aka World War II.

The most immediately striking difference between the two books is the almost perfectly monoglot nature of the Irish one. Dawe includes just one poem in Irish, Eoghan Ó Tuairisc’s post-Hiroshima ‘Aifreann na Marbh’ (Mass of the Dead). It is salutatory to be reminded that the poet-soldiers who fought for their vision of a Gaelic Ireland were, for the most part, monolingual minor Georgians, with the exception of the somewhat Whitmanesque Pearse.

It is worth remembering that over 200,000 Irish men volunteered to serve in the Great War, many of them in the belief that they were fighting for Home Rule; a tiny fraction of that number participated in the Easter Rising. Yet when the survivors of the war came home they found themselves somehow on the losing side, often viewed as little more than traitors to the emerging Free State. Some fought their erstwhile comrades in the War of Independence and then against each other in the Civil War, many just packed their medals and memorabilia away and never talked about it again.

Observers of the various recent state visits between Ireland and the UK will be aware that this silence has only very recently been broken. Most Irish poets who fought in the trenches were simply forgotten. A good number who fought in World War II just never returned. Dawe serves them well by recovering them from this ill-deserved oblivion, and the effort involved is qualitatively different from that required from Goldie and Watson.

Written by Billy Mills

14/05/2014 at 17:51

Posted in Guardian, Poetry, Politics

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Susan L. Mitchell: Irish Woman Poet

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Susan L. Mitchell (1866 – 1926) was born in Leitrim and educated in Dublin. She knew most of the leading writers of the Revival, and worked with George Russell (AE) on both the Irish Homestead and the Irish Statesman. ‘Amergin’ was included in Russell’s 1905 anthology New songs: a lyric selection.



I buzz in the dizzy fly. I crawl in the creeping things.
I croak in the frog’s throat, and fly on the bird’s wings.
I play on the keys of the brain ; a thought goes here and there,
Bird or beast, it has bounds, but I am everywhere.
I dip in the pools of the rocks, the minnow plays with me,
Finned I am like a fish, and merry children are we.
At the dumb call of the darkness I go to the ocean’s side,
I stand on the docile beach and bridle the eager tide.
The fretted waters I hold in the hollow of my hand:
From my heart go fire and dew, and the green and the brown land.

Written by Billy Mills

11/05/2014 at 13:57

Posted in Irish Women Poets, Poetry

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