Black Finn’s son abed

Black Finn’s son abed
in his delirium mortis he recalled the old laments & saw such visions of calamity beyond his ken to grasp

‘The Great Day of His Wrath’ by John Martin, c.1853

‘might be your last..’,
the base note our songs
returned to, dusk at
the foot of the piano,
avalanche of snow
soft as moths that
din on glass
yet wipes the face
of mountain clean

our oldest songs began
from this note, they widened
from it like the rippling gap
between hull and wharf
as the boat puts out to a sea
it shall not return from,
the note the gull cries above
the leaving tide, fish heads on
stalks of spine the fisherman
has left to rot on the shore.

had we forgotten the descent
of its harmonies, its rhyming
round the grave, the time is yet
again we shall embark on its
outward breath without rehearsal,
for like a yawn a sickness is spread
among us, and whoever tires keeping
above water is gone beneath its dark
and the news rolls on gathering us
matter-of-factly in adding us to the toll

the songs we had lulled ourselves
too long with, were porcellain gardens
that dazzled in echo through the ear,
now they are broken with the older
melody that taps its rhythmic finger out
in stands of cypress, and sinking oblong
of the minor key that shades the tone.
the songs we lulled ourselves with
were shelves of brightness we
wandered until the shops were shut
and we were sent to bed.

april 2020

Copyright ©2020 Peter Le Baige.  All Rights Reserved

Irish traditional, ‘Tuirimh Mhic Fhinin Dhuibh’ (Lament for Black Finn’s Son) arranged by Iarla Ó Lionáird, Gavin Bryars and Kieran Lynch from the album ‘Invisible Fields’ by Iarla Ó Lionáird . The lyrics and original melody were sourced from the version published in ‘The Journal of the Folk Society, Volume VI Number 23, January 1920, collection by Mr A M Freeman’. 

2 thoughts on “Black Finn’s son abed”

  1. interesting how I cannot really rest in any one narrative, the ‘sent to bed’ allowing various possibilities. the opening verse is strong


    1. Thanks for reading, Steve of Dean. The effects of delirium mortis (a medical term I made up) can be various, and involve its sufferers in violent swings between past and future.


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