Brendan Behan (1923-64) was an Irish rogue, writer and rebel. He wrote books, plays and poems in both English and Gaelic. At the age of sixteen, he set off alone to England to wage war on the Establishment there. He didn’t get far in his exploits and was arrested, subsequently spending time in a borstal which provided the content for his autobiographical story, Borstal Boy.
The following brief piece of verse is translated from Gaelic, a language which gave Behan great delight to speak. As is usual, the words lose some of their beauty in translation, but the imagery shines through nonetheless.
Uaigneas is translated as Loneliness
The taste of blackberries
After the rain
On top of the hill
In the silence of a prison
The train’s cold whistle
The excited whispering of lovers
To the lonely
Special thanks to Bernadette French for drawing Rebel Voice’s attention to this beautiful poem.