The Gallery Press is delighted to announce the publication of a new edition of Poems by Francis Ledwidge.
Edited by Peter Fallon, the book will be launched at a reception hosted by the Francis Ledwidge Museum Committee in Slane Castle on Sunday 7 August at 3:00pm. We hope you will be able to join us on the day.
There have been three different editions of Francis Ledwidge’s poems titled The Complete Poems. None is complete. This selection, the first book of Ledwidge’s poems published in County Meath, is based largely on the first of them published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd (London) in 1919 with introductions by Lord Dunsany and comprising Songs of the Fields (the one collection the author saw in his lifetime), Songs of Peace (the collection being printed at the time of his death) and Last Songs (a selection assembled by Dunsany, the author’s mentor and patron). That collection was clearly closest to the poet’s approval and enjoyed his patron’s endorsement. To those three sections I have added ‘Other Poems’, a selection drawing in the main on Alice Curtayne’s pioneering scholarship and including work generously provided by Joe Doyle from the archives of Dunsany Castle.
‘This is a song a robin sang
This morning in a broken tree;
It was about the little fields
That call across the world to me.’
In Belgium, days or weeks before his death on 31 July 1917, Francis Ledwidge wrote these lines about the fields of County Meath in a poem called simply ‘Home’. For Seamus Heaney he ‘can be counted as a “war poet” in the company of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon’. In his Introduction to Last Songs (1918), his patron, the 18th Lord Dunsany, wrote, ‘He has left behind him verses of great beauty, simple rural lyrics that may be something of an anodyne for this stricken age. If ever an age needed beautiful little songs our age needs them; and I know few songs more peaceful or happy or better suited to soothe the scars of the mind.’
Francis Ledwidge was born in Slane, County Meath, in 1887. He worked as a road labourer and activist before joining the British Army. Famously he said, ‘I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but passed resolutions.’ He died in action at Ypres in 1917.
Francis Ledwidge is the author of exquisitely delicate lyrics. His elegy for Thomas MacDonagh which begins ‘He shall not hear the bittern cry . . .’ is one of the best known Irish poems of the past century.