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The Gods of Place

by Adam 

Posted: 23 August 2003
Word Count: 109
Summary: 'Romantic Irelnad's dead and gone' - 1913, W.B Yeats

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Across the vast sprawling streets
And wide labyrinth of night,
There they lie, waiting until
The bewitching hour, midnight.

Their names reel off like old myths -
Eponyms and history:
Each corner, curve and crevice
Steeped in the dust of the past.

Dual names for each road, lane, street,
Where bilingual signs speak
Of the ghosts whose names adorn
And brand their listless faces.

Signposts to stories and songs
Long posited in the past,
On the tongues of the living,
Go deu, always there to last.

Now they sleep, the living dead,
A stone plaque above our heads.
And there, they will never die,
For sleeping gods never lie.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 19:53 on 25 August 2003  Report this post
Hi, Adam, good to see a new poem from you. I'll reply as soon as I get a new printer cartridge! (I always prefer to print out a poem and live with it for a while before replying).


peterxbrown at 00:15 on 26 August 2003  Report this post
This poem takes me back to a glorious visit to Dublin where every corner seemed to echo the past. Poets and rebels and ancient culture.
I love the final line "For sleeping gods never lie" and the suggested double meaning of lie as in sleep and untruth. I personally would replace the word "lie" in "Here they lie" as,for me, it detracts from the astute use of "lie" in the final line. I really enjoyed the poem.

Adam at 07:21 on 26 August 2003  Report this post

Thank you very much for your kind comments! Interestingly, the poem was actually written on a visit to Dublin, when I too was struck by the history of the place... I agree with your comment about 'Here they lie', but am not sure how to replace it. I'll have a think... Cheers,

Adam x

James Graham at 15:59 on 28 August 2003  Report this post
This poem captures a very particular feeling associated with any place that has been gathering the dust of history and legend. From your quote at the top I assume it's Dublin. Towns in the north of Scotland have bilingual street-names too - and ghosts. The Yeats quote could be an epigraph, or maybe Dublin, 2003 (or whenever you were there) at the foot of the poem would tie it to the actual place. Maybe this reflects a feeling I have of an absence of particularities in the poem. I feel it needs an extra verse that works in an actual street-name and the historical or legendary figure commemorated in it. But maybe that goes against what you were aiming to do in the poem.

One or two words don't seem to me quite right. 'Bewitching hour' is rather commonplace, though not altogether inappropriate in the context of old myths. But a less common epithet, a more evocative word, might strike the reader more forcibly. For 'steeped', also a bit ordinary, a word somewhere in the range of meaning of 'covered', 'adorned', or 'masked' might be more effective. At first I wasn't sure of 'posited', but on reflection I think it's just right, in the sense of 'presented to us as if true'. Normally this would refer to the premise of an argument, but it could just as well apply to a myth or to the popular perception of some historical figure.

On the last line: this is one of my favourite tricks, but it's easier said than done. You could try reversing the last two lines to end the poem with 'And there, they will never die', or 'Sleeping gods that never/cannot/will not die'. Then try to get a line to precede that, ending with another rhyme for 'die' - of which there are hundreds. 'Eye'? 'Passer-by'? Even 'lie' in a different context. I was going to suggest dropping rhyme altogether, as not all of the other verses rhyme, but I can see the point of your rhymes at the end - they 'solidify' the thought and match the idea of 'gods' living in stone.

Let me know if any of this makes sense to you. Also, I don't know the meaning of 'Go deu' - I assume it's Irish, but haven't come across it.


Adam at 23:37 on 03 September 2003  Report this post

Thank you for your comments. Sorry I haven't replied before now.

The idea of including myths or actual figures did occur to me - Cuchullain, Parnell, O'Connell, etc. - but I wanted it to have a more universal feel. I agree that 'bewitching hour' may be a little weak (I'll have a think), although I have to say I think that 'steeped' works well: it works rhthmically, as well as in terms of meaning (especially the pun on the adjective 'steep', as in 'exaggerated' story). I'm not quite sure why the final couplet doesn't work for you... If you could send further details, I should be grateful.

Oh, 'Go deu' means 'forever' (in the eternal sense) in Gaelic.

Thanks once again,

Adam x

James Graham at 19:47 on 05 September 2003  Report this post
I got the wrong end of the stick with my comment on your last two lines. From Peter's comment on the first occurrence of the word 'lie', I went for major surgery, as I tend to do (not always wisely or successfully) with my own work. But no, after a little more thought I don't think the last two lines need to be changed at all. I still tend to agree with Peter that 'Here they lie' detracts a little from the poem's ending, but can't see a way to change it - except (here we go again!) reversing the lines to read 'A stone plaque above our heads/(line ending with) living dead'. That's probably no help at all. In any case, maybe this is a matter of the so-called site expert looking too closely and not seeing the wood for the trees.

From your explanation I can see the work that the word 'steeped' is doing. And though I think some lines about actual or legendary figures would possibly add interest to the poem, they're not necessary especially if you want it to have a more universal feel. Also an intelligent reader knows something about Cuchulain and Parnell and can bring this to the poem.

All the best



P.s. It's a sign that a poem is working, that there can be issues about the exact fitness of a single word!

bluesky3d at 20:19 on 05 September 2003  Report this post
A great poem .. it reminded me of Irish folk song traditional ballads

The last verse seems to be causing some discussion - I prefer 'our' heads, rather than 'their' heads, as it suggest they have left something to which we have to bear witness.

Here they lie, the living dead,
A stone plaque above our heads.
And there, they will never die,
For sleeping gods never lie.

the living dead 'will never die' and 'gods never lie' is cryptically satisfying.

Re the double meaning on the word 'lie', I tried to use it too in a poem called Silent Words.. (so perhaps it must be an obvious one)

they infuse, gain strength
like Earl Grey,
souls that rest together don't lie,
the sum is greater than the parts
is this what silent words convey?

Andrew :o)

Adam at 16:41 on 24 September 2003  Report this post
Hi guys,

I finally got round to answering the eternal quandry: what the hell to do with the final stanza of this poem! I just came back to it, and it seemed quite simple: 'Now they sleep'... It's amazing what a little time and distance can do! Hope you like it - let me know what you think...


Adam x

James Graham at 20:16 on 25 September 2003  Report this post
That's IT! Makes all the difference. It might suggest too that the living dead sleep lightly. Now you can send this poem out into the world.


Adam at 13:28 on 26 September 2003  Report this post
Thank you!

Take care,

Adam x

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