Thursday 25 August 2011


There’s a wasp in the session, zig-zagging
among the dancing fiddle bows. I can see
the hills of Clare from a window behind
the keyboard accompanist, who’s annoyed
by the presence of the wasp. Neophytes sit 
with instruments en garde, in expectation 
of doing battle with a jig they’ve learned.
Nattering non-stop, another wasp 
plonks himself in a chair reserved for players:
music has pressed his talk-button. Praise
in this culture is reticent, addressed
to the instrument – That whistle is going well
for you – or to the time and toil devoted
to the craft –  It’s not today nor yesterday
you took up the fiddle. A stout countryman
pauses on his way from the Gents and stares
at the lead fiddler as if staring could
yield up the point, the mystery of the music.
When the global economy collapses,
these tunes will still be played – wasps or no wasps.
A dozen or so digital recorders,
some of them so small they must have been
designed by Flann O’Brien’s Third Policeman,
are planted near the session. The wasps have gone,
one through an open casement, one through the door.
Somebody calls for a song. The Clare Hills
are looking good: I see them through the window
as if for the first time. It’s not today
nor yesterday they learned to play the light.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll, 2011

Note: I wrote the first draft of this poem in Feakle, Co Clare, during a Sunday morning session at the annual Traditional Music Festival, on August 7th last. The 'lead fiddler' in the poem (and in the session) was Vincent Griffin.

1 comment:

  1. My memories get rejuvenated whenever i hear this Irish folk song, which was first written about 1913, although it's a bit unclear where this song originated from. It has been recorded by a long list of bands and singers which include Bing Crosby, Cher, Johnny Cash, Charlotte Church, Elvis and Thin Lizzy to name a few. he Wild Rover, The Auld Triangle, The Irish Rover, Whiskey in the Jar are also my favourite.