Poem: A Partial Epitaph | Cassandra Voices

Poem: A Partial Epitaph


A Partial Epitaph

My friend, with many an article and book
saved in the Cloud, would censure Robert Emmet
for attitudinising in the dock.

We’re most of us the beneficiaries
of ordered states; opinion-formers wanting
Emmet stopped is something that one sees. 

But this rant? Picture him in middle age,
pardoned, respectable, like Thomas Moore
a frequent guest at the Vice-Regal Lodge.

Which to begin with doesn’t get Tom Moore,
friend of the stranger, dining with Zacchaeus,
his harp a bow strung for the indigenous poor.

I leave them to it – their vast carelessness,
their Twitter feeds correct and comfortable
above the whole world’s pitiable distress.

Those by whom Robert Emmet was condemned
no doubt imagined some long-term improvement
in how the poor lived. Difficult for them,

his edge, his relevancy; or to foretell,
in cabins and coffin-ships we’d breathe his name;
our grá for justice his memorial.

Feature Image: Depiction of Robert Emmet’s trial (Image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pga.02521)


About Author

Philip McDonagh is co-author of the recently published work "On the Significance of Religion for Global Diplomacy" (Routledge 2021). He is Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Dublin City University and Director of the Centre for Religion, Human Values, and International Relations. As a serving Irish diplomat, as Political Counsellor in London, Philip played a part in the Northern Ireland peace process in the build-up to the Good Friday Agreement. He later served as Head of Mission in India (accredited also to Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh), the Holy See, Finland, Russia (accredited also to the five Central Asian states), and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Philip has published poetry and works for the theatre, including Carraroe in Saxony (Dedalus 2003);The Song the Oriole Sang (Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2010); collections with Ravi Dayal (New Delhi) and Rudomino (Moscow); Gondla, or the Salvation of the Wolves (Arlen House 2016); and an adaptation for the stage of Crime and Punishment (Arlen House 2017).

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