The Ancient Stone Structures of Ireland

Another guest post today, from Linda Stanley, from the US, who visited Ireland in April 2011 and fell in love with the place. Here’s the 2nd poem she wrote about the stone structures of Ireland. Thanks again for sharing Linda:

For as long as I can remember my mother told me of our rich Irish heritage as I was growing up. Her side of the family were of the Joyce’s and the O’Brien’s. I had heard so many stories that, as our plane broke through the clouds to approach our landing in Shannon, I looked out the window and thought I was finally coming home.

I knew a little about Irish history and the strife they went through for years fighting those who attempted to take Ireland from them and the ensuing battles. I learned of the great potato famine in my history class and the anguish the survivors must have felt in leaving their country to start over with a new life. I had seen photos of famous castles of Ireland, beehive huts and dolmens that dot the Irish landscape.

But nothing could prepare me of the quiet steadfast stone structures that were made of the hands of men with no machines that still remain standing centuries later. They literally dot the landscape all throughout Ireland. It really hit me how young America really is when you compare it to other European countries such as Ireland.

I loved to stop at every stone structure we came across on our travel through Ireland until my sister, who was the driver, refused to stop anymore. She had shopping on her mind. When I was “allowed” to stop at castle remains or beehive huts I felt the overwhelming desire to place my hands on the cold stones of the structure, close my eyes and just imagine the life of the people back then and the life they must have led.

I found myself looking out the windows of a castle facing the Atlantic Ocean and imagine what people looking out the same window opening centuries ago must have seen- or were waiting to see. I’m sure the view is much the same as it was back then. Photo 1 is of my mother posing in front of a castle ruin. Photo 2 is of me standing in front of O’Brien castle at the Cliffs of Moher.

When I returned home I could not get theses memories of the stone structures of Ireland out of my mind. It inspired me to write this poem, Stone Sentries.

Stone Sentries

Dark remains of castles, ring fortes and dolmens
Like silent stone sentinels they stand
Standing on the horizon, seems since time began
Ancient hands have placed you across the land

Tell me, of the hands that laid each stone
For what purposes, what strategies, what gains?
As I now lay my hands upon these bleak ruins
Can I hear thy voices, my eyes see the stains?

What lives did these stone edifices serve to protect?
Or of burial sites or points on ancient maps to mark
If these stones had voices, the stories they could reveal
Of battles fought, wars won, and times so bleak and dark.

Battles across the land, constantly defending what is yours
Invasions from Vikings, Normans, Brits- countries all around.
Every man has to die, sadly, too many would before their time.
But the stones still stand as they watch over Irish ground

Witnesses to times of laughter and dance, celebrations and chants
Ancient feasts, festivals under the light of full moons.
Marriages, births, victories, coronations of kings.
The stones, they remember and almost pulse with ancient tunes.

My trembling hands I place today on these stones so cold.
My expectant eyes gaze through crumbled windows facing the sea.
Just as centuries past those looking out these same portals
Watched and waited with hushed prayers, patience, hope or glee.

Hoping, praying, dreading-what did they expect to see?
Lovers returning from too long past -or providers with seas’ bounties.
Oncoming invasions, heart wrenching decisions to leave or stay
From famine, persecution and exile from our forefathers counties.

So look not behind at the stone sentinels of a history bleak
Do not dwell of things lost, suffering, exodus, pain endured
But hear the true voices of these silent monuments of stone
And be proud of the people you’ve become… free and self assured.

Linda Stanley
June 2011