Raftery (1784-1835)

Mise Raifteirí, an file, lán dóchais is grá
le súile gan solas, ciúineas gan crá,
ag dul síos ar m'aistear le solas mo chroí,
fann agus tuirseach go deireach mo shlí;
féach anois me lem aghaidh ar Bhalla
ag seinm cheoil do phócaí falamh'.

(Another version reads "féach anois mé is mo chúl le balla" meaning, "Look at me now, with my arse to the wall." I find that artistically preferable, but defer to the scholarship of Ó Tuama.)

Hear this poem read in Irish (180K).

I am Raftery the poet, full of courage and love,
my eyes without light, in calmness serene,
taking my way by the light of my heart,
feeble and tired to the end of my road:
look at me now, my face toward Balla,
performing music to empty pockets!

Antoine Ó Raifteirí, a native of County Mayo, was blind from childhood and earned his living by playing the fiddle and singing his songs in country houses in the west of Ireland. He is the blind poet of Yeats's poem "The Tower."

Adapted from An Duanaire: An Irish Anthology: 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed   edited by Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania Press, 1981)