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At Thoor Ballylee


If we could only find some personal conviction
In ourselves, not be as dispirited as a heavy soil
Or as inevitable as a tree; as unlearned as
An attitude of our fathers. If this heavy rain,
Which is really only vapours off the boil
And growing cold in Co. Galway, if this rain has
Any meaning other than itself, then a stain

Or Yeatsian watermark should be
Impressed upon us here. This slate roof
Should give us back more than an
Echo of rain. I should really be able to see
A sign, maybe an impression of a horse's hoof
Where a huntsman rode by, or a window-frame
Filled with ghostly Senators. But these trees

And their April leaves are all that's left
For me. The spirits of the place are elsewhere,
Maybe thousands of miles away in
Villanova or Notre Dame. This tower is bereft
Of an intellectual life. This empty seminar
of rain and late floods makes it plain
That a theft happened here, a grand theft.

I wonder is there anything broken that I
Might restore again? The unwritten page,
As you know, still thirsts and thirsts for
Accusations. Where the gods lie
Is where these trees explode in a rage
Of small April leaves. If only we could pour
Our hearts out without irony in this country.


Thomas McCarthy

PN Review

July / August 2017


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