My Lagan Love, by Joseph Campbell

My Lagan Love
Joseph Campbell

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair;
The twilight gleam is in her eye,
The night is on her hair.
And like a lovesick lenanshee,
She hath my heart in thrall;
Nor life I owe, nor liberty,
For love is lord of all.

And often when the beetle’s horn
Hath lulled the eve to sleep
I steal unto her shieling lorn
And through the dooring peep.
There on the cricket’s singing stone
She spares the bog wood fire.
And hums in sad sweet undertone
The song of heart’s desire.

This poem is a beautiful example of erratic, chaotic English woven into a silver thread.  It is an Irish folk song, written by Joseph Campbell.  The word choice here is exquisite.  The poem flows together in one fine, rippling current.  Notice how the consonants aid this:  soft consonants like s’s and h’s, and digraphs like th and sh—no harsh ch occurs even once.  Consider the many l’s, not only the ones that begin words:  twilight, gleam, shieling, sleep, blows.  These l words contribute to the poem’s lilt.  Try reading the poem now, pronouncing the l with the tip of the tongue, as they do in Italian, instead of using the heavier, thicker English method.  What do you notice about the poem now that you have brought out the gentle l and other soft consonants?

A brief lexicon:

Lenanshee is traditionally spelt leanen sidhe.  A leanen sidhe is an Irish fairy-lover.

Thrall in this case means “bondage.”

A shieling lorn is a forlorn hut.

Even after some research, the meaning of both “beetles horn” and “cricket’s singing stone” remain dark to me.

8 thoughts on “My Lagan Love, by Joseph Campbell

  1. This is so great, Nicole! I’m currently working on a show that’s set in Ireland so these insights into Irish culture are much appreciated. Poems with these complex word choices are amongst my favourites. I’m amazed by writers that are able to command language in such a beautiful way.

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    1. Poems like this remind me that a writer can be a master of language like a musician can be a master of an instrument. I especially like ones like these, written by people who are from Ireland, or some other part of the British Isles, as their knowledge of dialectal words adds such a unique dimension to their work.

      I wish you the best in your film-crafting!

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  2. This is such a beautiful poem, and you’re so right the word crafting in this song is absolutely lovely! I also think it’s neat, I was researching leanan sidhe as part of the Faebruary challenge last month, it’s so cool to see them (or rather, a mention of them) make an appearance in this poem!

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    1. Isn’t it great when, while looking for something else, you randomly happen upon an article that is completely applicable to something else you are studying?

      I am intrigued: what is the “Faebruary challenge”?

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      1. Oh, yes! Faebruary is an art challenge held every year in February by the fantasy art community. You get daily prompts for the month and each prompt is a faery person or creature that you then make art of! I find it a fun way to get inspired and learn more about traditional fae legends 🙂

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