Friday, January 9, 2015

The Living Dead

 Honouring our poetic ancestors


By John O’Donohue (Jan. 1, 1956 - Jan. 4, 2008)

On the day when the weight deadens
On your shoulders and you stumble,
May the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green and azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach* of thought
And a strain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak to mind your life.

*An Irish small boat

I've seen this poem a couple of times on facebook recently, posted as New Year wishes. Such lovely wishes, I offer them to all of you! 

The title means blessing, and I have learned that he renamed it, in his last book, as 'Blessing for a New Year'. At his website, managed by his literary estate, you can hear him read this beautiful poem — a fitting memorial for him as he was born and also died in the early days of the year.

It's not so long ago that John O'Donohue was living amongst us. He left us when he was still young to go. We must be thankful that he did so much beautiful writing. I'm sure many of you, like me, encountered his best-selling Anam Cara long ago and fell in love with it. He was still a Catholic priest when he wrote that, but left the priesthood in 2000. After that he had an active public life as an environmentalist and well-loved author.

The link on his name, above, takes you to the Wikipedia account of his life. At the website you can find, in 'About', a more detailed account of his theological career. He was quite the scholar! 

You can also find all his books listed at his website, and the link to a facebook page created for his many fans. In the Wikipedia article you can find links to talks and interviews, as well as to his obituary in The Guardian. That obituary describes him as 'priest, philosopher and writer', and also as a visionary. 

He is credited with having a 'Celtic spirituality'. The notion of Celtic Christianity is disputed by some people as being a misnomer, in that there is no conflict with traditional Christianity. I certainly can't speak to that but I do love, in this blessing, the way the elements of nature are included, and the ancestors — of which, poetically speaking, he has become one.

Copyright in John O'Donohue's work belongs to his estate.


  1. I love this one, Rosemary! Thank you for sharing it here with us.

    1. And the poem loves you back — being full of its author's love.

  2. This is one of my favourite poems, Rosemary. Thank you so much! I love the "invisible cloak to mind your life."

  3. Rosemary, thank you so very much. I do not know this poet, but now have someone wonderful to discover.

  4. Perfect message for today. Thank you.

  5. What a lovely poem, Rosemary. I agree it is an excellent messag for the new year....thank you

  6. I love it when I feel like I got an entire novel in one poem. Great!

  7. 'May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    May the clarity of light be yours,
    May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.' ~ sounds so comforting. Thank you, Rosemary and Happy New Year to you!


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