“Mother Ireland” is a short poem in free verse in which the speaker is Mother Ireland. The poem repeatedly reminds the reader of the speaker’s presence: every sixth word, on average, is a first-person pronoun (“I,” “me,” “my”). The poem is difficult to classify. It has some qualities of the lyric, with the author speaking through a persona. It sketches the outlines of a story (hence is a narrative), and the story’s scale has epic proportions, though the poem (at only thirty-six lines, 142 words) is obviously not an epic. It might be considered a parable, but that term identifies a type of story, not a type of poem.
Mother Ireland tells her story: Once passive, unself-conscious, blind, and voiceless, she became active, self-conscious, sighted, and articulate. At first, she says, she was the land [of Ireland] itself, unable to see, only seen by others. The season early in the poem is winter: “I was a hill/ under freezing stars.”
The transformation began because “words fell on me” continually, she says. They were others’ words (she calls them by different names: “Seeds. Raindrops./ Chips of frost.”), and she was but their passive recipient. From one of these words, in the poem’s pivotal lines, she says,
I learned my name. I rose up. I remembered it.Now I could tell my...
(The entire section is 432 words.)