JAW Hamilton - Sligo Poets

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John Arthur Hamilton

From February to May of 1912 the Sligo Times published five poems by J.A.W. Hamilton. The same newspaper had published a number of his poems in 1911. As in 1911 some of these poems bear only the poets initials while others give the writer's full name.

The poems are standard fare, formulaic reflections on love, flowers and seasons. They are disappointingly general reflections on what were the standard themes of poetry with no local or personal reference. Spring Cleaning at least has the virtue of being an attempt at humour.

There are John Arthur Hamiltons in the 1911 Census for County Sligo. The one most probably the author of these verses was the twelve year old son of the land steward at Hazelwood Estate near Sligo town. His father, William, was a native of Scotland, his mother Sara, a Sligo native.

His poetry makes no further appearance in the Sligo Times after May 1912. The Sligo Independent 7 February 1914 carried the news that William Hamilton was leaving Sligo. John Arthur's poetry again appeared in the Sligo newspapers in 1915 and at that time he was living in Glasgow.  

Author Page

Hamilton in the 1911 Census.

Sligo Times 3 February 1912


It is so strange; this overwhelming passion
   That mocks at reason that defies derision,
Idealizing in the blindest fashion
   What must be common clay in other’s vision.

What is it thus dethrones our stable reason?
    A curl, a smile—a tricky glance—a dimple,
A well-shaped head, a figure trim and pleasing
    Or feignedly, all artless, pure and simple.

A row of faultless teeth, all flashing pearly,
   Two lips that frown or smile our peace away;
A golden head all rippling and curly,
   Or laughing eyes of azure, brown or grey?

Or what it is may not be always clear,
    The man or maiden may be commonplace
You only know that person is so dear
   That love has gifted them with every grace.

You only know the sun is brightly shining
   And all is fair around, when they are bye,
That when away from them, your heart is pining,
   And every song is smothered in a sigh.

You only know that if you lived without them,
   Life would be robbed of its most brilliant star,
You simple love them, yea, and all about them,
   Is precious, though it only be a sear.

What were the world if robber of love and beauty
   How could we bear grim labour’s constant pain,
Love is the power that lightens every duty,
   And sweetens every task of life and brain.

Sligo, 1912.                                     J.A.W.H.

Sligo Times 2 March 1912


Thou sweet little snowdrop, so white and so pure
Thou! Emblem of life in winter’s dead hour
How oft have I seen thee, fragile and fair
Bloom sweetly though gardens around thee were bare!

Ah, me! And how often I’ve sighed as I thought,
And cowered o’er the lesson thy fearlessness sought,
For biting east winds and the snow all around
Ne’er kept thy fair blossoms asleep underground.

What! Shall I succumb to my weakness and pain
When thou, gentle snowdrop, the victory gain,
When deep mows of sorrow all over me lie,
Shall flickering hope in my faint bosom die?

No, I shall triumphantly rise o’er them all
Though trials like flakes in a snowstorm fall.
Rise; so that my fortitude others may cheer,
Not sink like a coward in misery and fear.

Do my duty in face of the east wind of scorn,
And rise like the snowdrop in dark, cheerless morn,
All bravely, yet humbly, all self-less and pure,
And gladden with fragrance a wintry hour.

Yes, this my desire for ever shall be,
To copy dear snowdrop, thy virtues and thee,
Live well, though no sunshine would brighten my days,
Insensible either to scorn or to praise.

J.A.W.H. Sligo

Sligo Times 2 March 1912


Sweet little fragrant flower,
   alike in sun or gloom,
How wonderful to me thy power
   Of shedding sweet perfume.

What carest thou if oft
   Thou are forgotten quite,
Still thou dost bear the head aloft,
   And blossom out of sight.

Thou wilt not bloom to gain
   A single word of praise,
Not fragrance selfishly retain
   For bright and sunny days.

But upright, pure, and fair
   While life doth hold its sway
Thou sweet’nst with they breath the air
   In dark or sunny day.

And oft thou’rt plucked and worn,
   When ruthless hands do cast
Thy beauteous petals, shred and torn,
   Aside when pleasure’s past.

E’en then o’er fingers rude
   Thy sweetness thou dost pour,
For evil but return’st good
   In death thy fragrance more

Oh, that my life might be
   Like thine, dear little flower,
Sweet, fragrant, full of purity
   And love, in hatred’s hour.

For wounds give healing back
   ‘Mid slights, yield patient grace,
Give what I have if others lack
   And smile in sorrow’s face.

Be good for love of good,
   Be true, for truth’s sweet sake
Be brave in fate’s most trying mood
   And joy for others make.

                           J. A. W. Hamilton.

Sligo Times 11 May 1912


Sweet and fragrant, chastely fair,
   Modesty and grace combined.
How I love thy blossoms rare,
   Sweeter it were hard to find.

Sweet each small inverted cup
   Drooping on the tender stem.
Well might fairies drink and sup
   From such waxen little gem.

Where the “magic ring” is found,
   Where the “little people” dance.
Growing in the mossy ground
   There thy blossoms gleam and glance.

There thy green leaves shelter make
   For those gauze winged creatures bright,
When the tiny partners take
   Refuge from the moon’s clear light.

Is there any wonder then
   That I love thee, floweret fair,
When the fairies of the glen
   My devotion fully share.

Sligo                             J.A.W. Hamilton

Sligo Times 27 April 1912


Nae wonder I look glum,
   Nae wonder I look blue,
for glorious spring has come—
   The cleaning demon too.

Upstairs and down each airth,
   Paint-brushes, brooms and pails,
while giving them wide berth
   The wife at me—and rails.

“Here, watch yer feet, my man!
   That bit o’er there is clean.
‘Ye want a chair’—so, can
   Ye try and gi’e me yin.

Oh! watch yer head—look out—
   That paint o’er there is wet.
Ye’ve ta’en it off, nae doot,
   It’s on yer sleeve, I’ll bet.

Here, jist sit there the noo,
   Some tea will dae ye fine,
Ye canna bake and stew,
   and roast at cleaning time”

Oh my, ma back’s that sair,
   I wish I wis a man,
They dinna wark nae mair
   Nor langer than they can.

Bit here since brak’ o’ day
   I’m working like a slave,
Till a’ the neighbours say,
   I’ll sin be in ma grave.

Ye needna look so soor,
   O’ trouble, you ha’e nane.
Bit men were always door,
   It’s me that should complain!”

I mumbled something low
   And munched ma bred and chees,
And wondered whar I’d go
   Tae keep fra scenes like these.

Ma wife, I love gal weel,
   And she’s aye nearly sweet.
Guess then hoo bad I feel
   At changes sae complete.

Sae when I did escape
   And dodged the painter’s brush,
Queer thoughts o’ dootful shape
   And words I had tae crush.

Bit, ‘gin I had yin seight
   O’ yon imp o’ the spring,
I’d choke him wi’ deleight
   And dance the ‘Heelan Fling.’

                      J. A. W. Hamilton.

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