by Geraldine Plunkett Dillon (1891 – 1986)
While you are in Kilkenny town,
I see your grace in every tree;
Your hair is as the branches brown,
The birches have your bravery.
Your strength in mountain oaks I find,
Eagles in this have built their nest;
With supple sally twigs you bind
My willing heart unto your breast.
Cypress and cedar spreading wide
Under your peace my heart will sleep;
O rowan tree that grows beside
My pool of love, your roots drink deep.
I fill my heart with stores of memories,
Lest I should ever leave these loved shores;
Of lime trees humming with slow drones of bees,
And honey dripping sweet from sycamores.
Of how a fir tree set upon a hill,
Lifts up its seven branches to the stars;
Of the grey summer heats when all is still,
And even grasshoppers cease their little wars.
Of how a chestnut drops its great green sleeve,
Down to the grass that nestles in the sod;
Of how a blackbird in a bush at eve,
Sings to me suddenly the praise of God.
3 The North Wind
O rare North Wind whose cutting edge is keen,
Joyfully brushing up the countryside,
Tossing aloft the yellow buds and green,
A little southward eddie creeps around
When all the West is blushing like a bride,
Sweet is the southward eddie near the ground.
The heavy tide rolls in the billows blue,
Save in the purple depth where seaweed lies;
The seagulls out against the clouds are few,
But O, the sea is white among the rocks;
The whipped foam white in the North Wind flies,
High in the sky are flung the North Wind’s locks.
4 To Saint Francis
O Francis, I have listened at your feet
And tried to catch your quick humility,
I caught the meaning of your counsels sweet
And found the peace that is within your words;
I’ve loved with you the fishes of the sea,
I’ve been the little sister to the birds.
I am in fellowship with all the world
The rivers singing to me as they run,
The flowers spoke to me as they unfurled
The dumb earth sobs to me in earthquake jars;
As you were little brother to the sun,
I am the little sister of the stars.
5 Gan Ainm
Your gracious joy distils my heart, as dew
Which your great love will gather to a whole
And bind the waters to a stream anew,
To wind among the gardens of your soul;
The unthinkable sweetness of your kiss
Has made my soul a flame, and up it goes,
Finding its way among the stars in bliss
To hide itself in the eternal rose.
A fold of Heaven’s curtain swung aside
Splitting the blackness of the winter’s night,
Blown by the breath of God it opens wide;
I saw the holy ones in companies
Led by archangels armoured for the fight;
I heard the shrill eternal symphonies.
I did not thrust my sorrow-twisted face
Amongst the splendours of the heavenly town
Nor walk misshapen with the forms of grace
Girded for battle in celestial wars;
And yet, my God, an angel has come down
And crowned me with the glory of the stars.
7 Si Quis Amat
In my dream of peace,
One sound breaks silence
The sweetness of increase
As honey downward drips
Through the bars of sense
Down to my soul’s lips.
For whose joyous choice
My heart sings of it
Shouts with a loud voice
No fear or regret
Si quis amat novit
Quid haec vox clamet
[If a man loves, he will know the sound of this voice.]
8 Before Her Judge
In all my life, there happened things just three
First I was born;
Marriage came next to one who seemed like Thee
I died this morn.
My man, my babes, my life, I loved too well,
To walk Thy ways.
Must I now hate eternally in Hell
There is one plea beneath which I can hide,
O Beauteous One!
Your Father, Christ, forsook you; but I died
To save my son.
Magnificat is courtesy of and © Geraldine Plunkett Dillon’s great-granddaughter Isolde Carmody
Image: Top of the wave by Geraldine Plunkett Dillon
The text of Magnificat and images associated with Geraldine Plunkett’s Dillon’s historical and cultural work were kindly sent to me by her great-granddaughter Isolde Carmody and I am very grateful for them. I am delighted to add Geraldine to my indices at Poethead. I hope that this page will increase interest in her work. Excerpts from the Preface to the 2nd edition of All In The Blood, memoirs of Geraldine Plunkett Dillon, edited by Honor ÓBrolcháin,
“My greatest regret throughout the process has been how little credit she gives herself, for example she does not mention a paper she gave in the Royal Irish Academy in 1916 or her contribution to the article on dyes in Encyclopedia Britannica or her volume of poetry, Magnificat, or contributing to the Book of St Ultan, or being a founder member of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe (the masks of Tragedy and Comedy she made for the Gate theatre are now on a wall in the Taibhdhearc) and the Galway Art Club, where she exhibited for years, or making costumes for Micheál Mac Liammóir in 1928, or being responsible for Oisín Kelly deciding to become a sculptor – he was one of very many who said that she enabled them to do the right thing for their own fulfillment. When she wrote it was in order to provide a history of her times and an insight into what made her family so strange. Like many of her generation she did not write much about her own feelings and her humourous and optimistic nature does not really come through in her writing. I would like to have been able to put that in but could not in all faith do so. “ It is also worth noting that Joe (Joseph Plunkett) named her as literary executor, and she edited his Collected Poems in 1916
Other sources for Geraldine Plunkett Dillon’s work (online)
The following brief biographical source for Geraldine Plunkett Dillon’s work is courtesy of Billy Mills at Elliptical Movements: Geraldine Plunkett Dillon (1891 – 1986) was born in Dublin. She published a single pamphlet of poems, Magnificat, from The Candle Press in Rathgar in 1917, which sold for sixpence. Her brother Joseph Mary was executed for his part in the 1916 rising. She was the mother of Eilís Dillon and grandmother of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.