Ledwidge was killed in action during WWI at the Battle of Passchendaele on July
31, 1917. He was an Irish poet, born in County Meath in 1887. He was a
Nationalist and he believed his military service to be in the name and
defense of Ireland. He met with success and setbacks as a soldier: He
was demoted for being drunk in uniform, but he was promoted again
following his return to the front. Although he was sick and injured for
much of the war, he didn’t stop writing. At the time of his death, a
few weeks shy of his 30th birthday, only one book of his poems had been
published. Another was in production and his patron, Lord Dunsany,
oversaw the publication of the remainder of Ledwidge’s work. Yes, he
died too young, but he left us some exquisite poetry. Can you imagine
what he might have left us had he lived to be an old man?
To a Distant One
By Francis Ledwidge
(The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge, published by Brentano’s, New York, NY, 1919)
Through wild by-ways I come to you, my love,
Nor ask of those I meet the surest way,
What way I turn I cannot go astray
And miss you in my life. Though Fate may prove
A tardy guide she will not make delay
Leading me through strange seas and distant lands,
I’m coming still, though slowly, to your hands.
We’ll meet one day.
There is so much to do, so little done,
In my life’s space that I perforce did leave
Love at the moonlit trysting-place to grieve
Till fame and other little things were won.
I have missed much that I shall not retrieve,
Far will I wander yet with much to do.
Much will I spurn before I yet meet you,
So fair I can’t deceive.
Your name is in the whisper of the woods
Like Beauty calling for a poet’s song
To one whose harp had suffered many a wrong
In the lean hands of Pain. And when the broods
Of flower eyes waken all the streams along
In tender whiles, I feel most near to you:–
Oh, when we meet there shall be sun and blue
Strong as the spring is strong.