Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917)
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.
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.’