MJ Kearns - Sligo Poets

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         Sligo Nationalist
         29 January 1916

               To Spring.

When bright suns and milder skies
Proclaim the opening year,
What various sounds of joy arise!
What prospects bright appear!

Earth and her thousand voices give
Their varying notes of praise,
And all that by His Mercy live
To God their off’ring raise.

Forth walks the labourer to his toil,
And sees the fresh array
Of verdure clothe the flowery soil
Along his careless way.

The streams, all beautiful and bright,
Reflect the morning sky;
And there, with music in his flight,
The wild bird soars on high.

Thus, like the morning, calm and clear,
That saw the Saviour rise,
The spring of Heaven’s eternal year,
Shall dawn on earth and skies.

No winter there, no shades of night,
Profane those mansions blest,
Where in the happy fields of light
The weary are at rest.

             MICHAEL J. KEARNS
            (Late of Geevagh, Co. Sligo)

This is one of three poems by M J Kearns published in Sligo newspapers in 1916. The other two appeared in the Sligo Champion, a praise poem for the late P A McHugh and a ballad in praise of a Strandhill holiday.

This is a typical "poetic" deliberation on spring and could have been written by any British or Irish poet between 1850 and 1930. It uses the standard poetic language, "verdure", "proclaim", "prospects", with some inversions, "forth walks",  consistent metre and full rhymes.

It does reflect his Catholic upbringing and faith. In the poem Kearns moves from the imagined landscape of the coming of spring, through thoughts of Easter and the Resurection to a description of heaven, "the happy fields of light".

The poem lacks any reference to a locality and is not situated especially in rural Geevagh or the outskirts of Boyle where the poet was probably living at the time. The landscape is a generic rural vista, common to such poems.

It does demonstrate Kearns' skill at versification and his ability with rhythm, rhymes and language. With the other two 1916 poems it shows his versatility, his ability to turn his hand to various themes and styles and in each case produce a polished poem which suited the subject matter.

It is interesting to compare this poem with Spring by J A W Hamilton, published in the Sligo Independent in 1916. Hamilton spent much of his youth in Sligo before moving to Glasgow. His poem is livelier, less old fashioned, has the same attention to rhythm and rhyme, but is less polished than that of Kearns.

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