Paul Muldoon Reads "Anseo"

When the master was calling the roll At the primary school in Collegelands, You were meant to call back Anseo And raise your hand As your name occurred..
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Paul Muldoon: So, this is a poem called Anseo. Anseo was the first word of Irish I learned. It means "here." It was a word that we learned at primary school as the role was being called. Here. Anseo, Anseo.

 

Anseo

When the master was calling the roll

At the primary school in Collegelands,

You were meant to call back Anseo

And raise your hand

As your name occurred.

Anseo, meaning here, here and now,

All present and correct,

Was the first word of Irish I spoke.

The last name on the ledger

Belonged to Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward

And was followed, as often as not,

By silence, knowing looks,

A nod and a wink, the master's droll

'And where's our little Ward-of-court?'

 

I remember the first time he came back

The master had sent him out

Along the hedges

To weigh up for himself and cut

A stick with which he would be beaten.

After a while, nothing was spoken;

He would arrive as a matter of course

With an ash-plant, a salley-rod.

Or, finally, the hazel-wand

He had whittled down to a whip-lash,

Its twist of red and yellow lacquers

Sanded and polished,

And altogether so delicately wrought

That he had engraved his initials on it.

 

I last met Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward

In a pub just over the Irish border.

He was living in the open,

in a secret camp

On the other side of the mountain.

He was fighting for Ireland,

Making things happen.

And he told me, Joe Ward,

Of how he had risen through the ranks

To Quartermaster, Commandant:

How every morning at parade

His volunteers would call back Anseo

And raise their hands

As their names occurred.

 

Recorded on: 1/23/08