Saturday Poem

The Kings Are Out

In Patrick Street
In Grattan Street
In Ireland Rising Liberty Street
The Kings are out.

Along the Mall
The Union Quay
In every street along the Lee
The Kings are out.

With knives of ice
And dressed to kill
The wine flows down from Summer Hill
Christ! Be on your guard tonight
The Kings are out.

The snow is dark
And where they meet
The blood in rivers at their feet
Christ! be on your guard tonight
The Kings are out.

Armies marching through the snow
Banners burning row on row
Hate upon them as they go
The stars are red.

Parnell Bridge is falling down
South Gate Bridge is falling down
The City Hall is falling down
The stars are red.

Christ! Be on your guard tonight
The Kings are out.

Walking through the fire and flame
Holy father racked in pain
Corpus Christi in his hand
Make way for the Lord!

Murder, rape, and sudden death
Got your bloody onions yet?
Pay the birds and never fret
Go home to God!

Gaze upon this dreadful sight
Send an arrow through the night
Crush them to a bolt of Hell
Make way for the Lord!

Holy Father, mind your ways
You belong to other days
Now the Kings write all the plays
Go home to God!

Down the Mall he walks in prayer
Buildings burning everywhere
Pushing Christ before the world
Make way for the Lord!

And the Kings with bone and knives
Tear away his hundred lives
Throw his body in the Lee
Go home to God!

Kings and Queens march on the town
Someone wears a royal crown.

And the old ones in the street
Ring the dead bell of defeat.

Reason bleeding through the snow
Nowhere else on Earth to go.

Mother of God be our relief
Close the world on all our grief.

Dance to a royal tune
Down to a darkening moon
Under the rivers of frost
Cry the believers.

Deep in the silver ground
Damned in the fire and sound
Under the billows of ice
Cry the believers.

And the churches collapsed
And they opened the graves
And they moved in a wind
Through a fever of dead
And a babble of bones.
They raged at the lock
And they tore down the walls
And they danced on the pillars of blood
And the arches of gold.

They burned at the Rock
And they staggered the root
And they struck at the wound
And the cry in the dark cathedrals.
They gouged out the eyes
And they murdered the lips
And they buried the tongue
And the voice in the vile eclipses.

And the city destroyed
And they ravaged the light
And they rode on a storm
Through an ocean of grief
And a terror of ice.
They stretched on the shores
And they raved at the stars
And they cursed at the roof of the world
and the finger of God.

Death by the skulls of night
Dark by the fearful blight
Under the falling skies
Cry the believers.

Dead on the bitter glow
Dust on the burning snow
Under the galleys of Hell
Cry the believers.

In Patrick Street
In Grattan Street
The Kings are out.

The gallows high
across the sky
The Kings are out.

Along the Mall
The Union Quay
In every street along the Lee
Eternal night
The cinders white
The Kings are out.

The starving world
has turned to stone
The Kings are out.

The Queens alone
Lie bone to bone
The Kings are out.

And through the green and bitter hate
The cry of eagles at the gate:

by Patrick Galvin
from New and Selected Poems
Publisher: Cork University Press, Cork, 1996
© 1960,

Some analysis of the poem

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