Prose
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

 

An Irishman's Lament
by Owen

In 1846, 8 million people lived in Ireland. Most of them were poor, and depended on potatoes for their very survival. But from 1847 through 1851, the potato crops were destroyed by a devastating blight. In the famine that followed, 2 million Irish people starved to death.
Another million emigrated to other lands. The Great Hunger ended many lives, and changed innumerable others by steering them into unexpected channels. The migration that followed was the source of countless songs and stories. This is one of them; a poem-song that I wrote in 1961 when I was a young man.


There's a village called Kilgarven,
In the southern part of Kerry,
Where I loved a girl named Brenda
In the hawthorne days of May.
But my people they were starvin'
T'was not food to feed a fairy,
So I told her that I'd send for her,
And then I ran away.

And I've spent my lifetime sailin'
On a thousand nameless steamers.
There were women who were tender,
And times when life was gay.
But there's only been one maiden,
Who loved this sea-cursed dreamer,
And I wonder how my Brenda is....
And why I stayed away.

Often of a Sunday,
In the years before the blight struck,
I'd dance with pretty Brenda
On a road near Bantry Bay.
And I've told myself that one day,
With just a bit of "right luck,"
I'd send for my intended,
And she'd have her wedding day.

But the years have passed so quickly,
And my face is lined and weathered,
And the skies and seas that once were blue
Have somehow turned to gray.
And though I'm old and sickly,
Tonight I'll walk the heather,
And gaze upon the girl I knew,
The life I cast away.

Yes, I've spent my lifetime sailin'
On a thousand nameless steamers,
There've been women who were tender,
And times when life was gay.
But there's only been one maiden,
Who loved this sea-cursed dreamer,
And I wonder how my Brenda is....
And why I stayed away.