Quarantine by Eavan Boland
RIP April 27th, 2020

Without any doubt Eavan Boland had been my favorite living Irish poet. Her poetry embodied the essence of Irishness, Ireland’s tragic and melancholic history, with it’s lovelorn and forelorn.
I have posted two of her poems on puppies and flowers before: Amberand The Lost Land. This piece is a more recent favorite of mine and appropriately titled in today’s environment, Quarantine.

Read it and weep!

Eavan Boland



In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland.
Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. 

Featured Image from the National Library of Ireland’s collection: John and Andrew Fox’s house, after eviction, Clongorey, Co Kildare. c. 1888
Artwork by Peadro