Mary Morton: Irish Woman Poet

Mary Morton was born in Limerick but spent her adult life in Belfast where she worked as a teacher and with Belfast PEN. She published widely in magazines and produced three collections, Dawn and Afterglow (1939); Masque in Maytime (1948); Sung to the Spinning Wheel (1952). Spindle and Shuttle shared the Northern Ireland poetry award for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was published by HM Stationery Office in that year. The full text of the poem is available in A.A. Kelly’s Pillars of the House: An Anthology of Irish Women’s Poetry.

from Spindle and Shuttle

Last night I darned a damask tablecloth.

Back and forth
Warp and woof:

The cloth was old; a hundred years and more
Had come and gone since, master of his loom,
Some skilful weaver set the hare and hounds
Careering through the woodland of its edge
In incandescent pattern, white on white.
It was my mother’s cloth, her mother’s too
(Some things wear better than their owners do)
And linen lasts; a stuff for shirts and shrouds
Since Egypt’s kings first built their gorgeous tombs
And wrapped their dead in linen, it may be
They held it symbol of a latent hope
Of immortality.

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