Friday, 23 September 2011

Iseult Gonne

the thunderclap
did not come
where  where  where

are the rolling clouds,
the slim streak
of white anger?

the wind roars
and disturbs the ears
of the Queen

the candle is lit
and blown out
lit and blown out

you cannot create a life
out of a dead baby
you just can’t do that

dance on the edge
of the ocean
but peace never comes

eyes are always
watching the shape
my shadow makes

if you bruise and
confuse the leveret
the hare will flee


  1. Beautiful poem on a woman who needs far more poetry. I love 'the slim streak/ of white anger.' I think her tragedy is not that she died ordinary, but that so many pushed her to the ordinary by demanding too much from her.

    Is Francis the wind?

    Iseult is the reason I am now studying literature in Dublin. Her Ireland, her Castle and her mountains, is possibily the most beautiful place on earth.

  2. Hi Catherine, I too think she was pushed to be something incredible and she resisted by doing the opposite. I think the photograph of her is haunting, she looks so beautiful but her eyes are frightened. I would love to see Dublin and explore Ireland, I will one day. My grandfatehr was born there. I am glad you liked the poem, not many people know about her or share my love for her.

    The first two stanzas are about Iseult not living up to her inheritance and the weight of expectation, that she was mild instead of dynamic.

    Then I was thinking of Yeats as the wind, roaring and constantly blowing in Maud's ears. I thought Iseult would have been aware of Yeats and his obsession from such an early age.

    All eyes were on Iselt and Yeats focused his poetic eye on her, writing several poems about her and making judgements on her. Horrible to be pinned down by a poet, the words shaping her into what he thought of her...and yet I do the same again.

    Dance on the edge of the ocean is beause of the poem Yeats wrote about her 'To a Child Dancing in the Wind' and I was struck by the line, 'What need have you to care / For
    wind or water's roar?'

    and then his famous poem 'Lake Isle of Innisfree' with the line 'And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow'...and I thought that peace did not come for Iseult with everyone directing her.

    The horror of her conception, trying to replace a dead and much loved sibling. Then her probable abuse and relationships with fascists. Poor Iseult.

    The last stanza just sums up my feelings that if you hurt something it can never bloom.

  3. Just happened upon your blog post on Iseult and its incredible! Well Done!

    I find her a fascinating figure in Irish literature and history and have studied Yeats! (im an Irish Studies student in Galway!) I have a poem myself about the women in Yeats life and poetry! I must dig it out!

    I'm going to have a look at the rest of your blog now!

  4. HI Aisling, I'm so glad you like the post about Iseult, I am very fond of this poem and find the whole story of this woman facinating. I would love to read your poem about Yeat's women if you do find it!

  5. Frances Stuart's "Black List, Section H" is rather instructive in a mad sort of way. Stuart, a poor mentee for W.B. Yeats, was ill-married to Iseult Gonne. A Japanese poet once wrote that beauty is the beginning of all tragedy. My goodness, but what a beauty Iseult was... and, tragically, she trusted her beauty to carry her toward a perpetual something-better.