Ledwidge Killed

oct20-2004 Ledwidge Pics

 

Ledwidge killed

blown to bits

died in a hole

with some other poor twits

bad things happen

when you fight for the Brits

better luck next time,

Ledwidge

 

Francis Ledwidge (19 August 1887—31 July 1917) was an Irish poet from Janeville in Slane, Co. Meath. He began his career as a poet in the rural or pastoral style of the time but is known today primarily as a war poet. Ledwidge was a nationalist, a member of the Irish Volunteers, and a supporter of Home Rule. In spite of this, at the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. This was against the advice of his friend and patron Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett), who offered to support him and his writing if he refused to join the war effort. ( Plunkett himself was a Captain in the Fusiliers.) Ledwidge insisted that his enlistment was for the protection of Ireland, though it has been suggested that he was at least partially motivated by having been left for another man by his girlfriend.

During the War, another conflict broke out at home in the form of the 1916 Easter Rising. According to Wikipedia, Ledwidge was “dismayed by the news of the Easter Rising and court-martialed and demoted for overstaying his home leave and being drunk in uniform.”  (Plunkett (Dunsany) himself, being a reserve officer in the Fusiliers, fought against the Irish rebels and was wounded.)

“Ledwidge continued to write during the war years…sending much of his output to Lord Dunsany…as well as family, friends, and literary contacts.”

“On 31 July, 1917, a group from Ledwidge’s battalion…were road-laying in preparation for an assault during the Third Battle of Ypres, near the village of Boezinge, northwest of Ieper (Ypres). While Ledwidge was drinking tea in a mud-hole with his comrades, a shell exploded alongside, killing the poet and five others. A chaplain who knew him, Father Devas, arrived soon after and recorded, “Ledwidge killed, blown to bits.” ”

 

I’m a bit ashamed to say that before writing this post I had read only two of Ledwidge’s poems, and those a very long time ago. One of them is “Lament for Thomas MacDonagh”, which I highly recommend. (MacDonagh was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising and was executed by the British.)  Here for your perusal is another:

 

Lament for the Poets: 1916

by Francis Ledwidge

 

I heard the Poor Old Woman say:

At break of day the fowler came,

And took my blackbirds from their songs

Who loved me well thro’ shame and blame

 

No more from lovely distances

Their songs shall bless me mile by mile,

Nor to white Ashbourne call me down

To wear my crown another while

 

With bended flowers the angels mark

For the skylark the place they lie,

From there it’s little family

Shall dip their wings first in the sky.

 

And when the first surprise of flight

Sweet songs excite, from the far dawn

Shall there come blackbirds loud with love,

Sweet echoes of the singers gone

 

But in the lovely hush of eve

Weeping I grieve the silent bills”

I heard the Poor Old Woman say

In Derry of the little hills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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39 Responses to Ledwidge Killed

  1. skat says:

    What is the origin of that last name? Was he of Dutch descent?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. drinking tea in a mud-hole — there’s a whole poem in that image

    Liked by 5 people

  3. An excellent post Oglach, and a
    very interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your poem is a darkly humorous way to deliver a message rather like that of *Dulce et Decorum Est*.

    Ledwidge and Plunkett both seem to have struggled with conflicting loyalties at a time when right vs wrong was murkier than usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      “Dulce et Decorum Est” had a massive impact on me as a child. They obviously don’t teach it in schools anymore. I hesitated to post my little poem until someone pointed out to me that being well adjusted to a sick society is no measure of sanity.
      Ledwidge grew up very poor and tried to organise labour unions as well as being involved in the Irish independence movement. Plunkett was from a family with vast generational wealth. Maybe he saw a romantic peasant/poet figure in Ledwidge, but in any case he tried in earnest to further his career and even save him from becoming cannon fodder. Each man’s humanity was not lost on the other despite their differences. I wonder how often, if ever, that happens today. Many thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ivors20 says:

    Thank you for the excellent read, Francis Ledwidge’s poem is captivating, and I shall now investigate further.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. An excellent introduction to a poet I had not heard of. Wikipedia confirms your belief, Oglach: ‘Ledwidge is a surname that originated in the hamlet of Upper Ledwyche, Shropshire, England. After the Norman invasion of Ireland the family was granted extensive tracts of land by Hugh de Lacy in the counties of Meath and Westmeath. In common with other Old English families many of them took the losing side in the wars of the 17th century and were dispossessed of their lands. The name was spelt in many different ways; the historian Edward Ledwich noted the following variations: Luitwick, Luitwich, Lutwyche, Ledwith, Ledewich, and Ledwich.[1]’

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      Thanks for the information. Francis Ledwidge is the only Ledwidge I’d ever heard of, but there are several families in that area of the country who originated in England. I’m glad you found the post of interest, Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Arbie says:

    Great post, oglach! I really enjoyed learning about this poet. Sorry for him if it is true he joined because of heartbreak, and then to meet such an awful end.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. KathrinS says:

    Oh no, poor Ledgwidge! The poem really is rather humorous, though.

    Kathrin — http://mycupofenglishtea.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Another great one, a chara! There is something sad and naïve about Ledwidge (the British sent in the Black and Tans just a few short years after his death and treated Ireland just like ‘poor little Belgium’) but I think he had the potential to be a brilliant poet. Have you ever read The Wife of Llew? I can’t think of any poem which is more evocative of spring. I always imagine it read by Richard Burton (as far as I know, he never read it!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      I read the poem after your suggestion. It’s brilliant, absolute magic. Ledwidge had potential alright, and knew all the right people to boot. There’s no knowing how many like him died nameless. Many thanks for reading and the words of encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There’s much pride that you have in your Irish heritage. I enjoy how you introduce many of us to writers and poets of Ireland… such a rich and often dark history. Your sing-song poem’s intriguing; especially given the macabre subject matter. I appreciated you posting Ledwidge’s melancholy poem.

    Have you seen this?

    Liked by 2 people

    • oglach says:

      I think the reason that some of us are proud to the point of being obnoxious is that there is a lot of shame there, too. I don’t shy away from it, but it can turn up in the form of anger as in the sing-song quality of the poem. (I actually tagged it “hoedown” because the line “Ledwidge killed, blown to bits,” in my mind sounded like the beginning of a merry fiddle tune. A lot of Irish people died to Make Britain Great Again.) I learned some things writing the post and I hope everyone enjoyed it. Thanks for the link. The video is creepy, but the reading is good. Maybe I’ll go as Ledwidge for Halloween. 🙂 Thanks for reading, Rose.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Resa says:

    Excellent post!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. inesephoto says:

    The first half of the 20th century is a sad and somewhat surreal time. I try my best but I cannot imagine the years spent in trenches and mud holes. People were robbed of human dignity, but they lived, and some even managed to write poetry! Thank you for the story and the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. sheldonk2014 says:

    I can hear this poem as I read
    I really love it
    As Sheldon Always

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post! I enjoy reading about history and poetry very much and haven´t heard of Ledwidge before but he seems worth investigating further! Thank you for introducing him to us! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. michnavs says:

    Its a shame too that i only knew little about him despite if my background in literature
    Thanks for sharing this Og

    Liked by 1 person

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