At Harvest – Poem By Joseph Campbell

This timely seasonal poem is from a Belfast Republican, Joseph Campbell, now deceased. He was also known as Seosamh MacCathmhaoil. Campbell took part in the Easter Rising of 1916, providing support to the rebels, and was a member of Sinn Féin in the 1920’s, being interned by Free State forces during the Civil War. After his marriage broke up, he emigrated to the US where he was a lecturer at Fordham University in New York. He returned to Ireland and died at Enniskerry, County Wicklow, in 1944. He was 64. Some of his poems, such as My Lagan Love, have been set to melodies and remain popular in Ireland.

At Harvest

Earth travails,
Like a woman come to her time.

The swaying corn-haulms
In the heavy places of the field
Cry to be gathered.
Apples redden, and drop from their rods.
Out of their sheath of prickly leaves
The marrows creep, fat and white.
The blue pallor of ripeness
Comes on the fruit of the vine-branch.
Fecund and still fecund
After aeons of bearing:
Not old, not dry, not wearied out;
But fresh as when the unseen Right Hand
First moved on Bri,
And the candle of day was set,
And dew fell from the stars’ feet,
And cloths of greenness covered thee.

Let me kiss thy breasts:
I am thy son and lover.

Womb-fellow am I of the sunburnt oat,
Friendly gossip of the mearings;
Womb-fellow of the dark and sweet-scented apple;
Womb-fellow of the gourd and of the grape:
Like begotten, like born.

And yet without a lover’s knowledge
Of thy secrets
I would walk the ridges of the hills,
Kindless and desolate.

What were the storm-driven moon to me,
Seed of another father?
What the overflowing
Of the well of dawn?
What the hollow,
Red with rowan fire?
What the king-fern?
What the belled heath?
What the drum of grouse’s wing,
Or glint of spar,
Caught from the pit
Of a deserted quarry?

Let me kiss thy breasts:
I am thy son and lover.

Joseph Campbell

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