The Echo at Coole

By Austin Clarke
Read by Tommy Tiernan

I stood one day in the great Pleasure Garden
At Coole, where the catalpa blossoms—handing
Out pods in Autumn, long as cigars that George Moore
And Edward Martyn smoked after dinner
At Tulira. Sad wilderness of panicles,
Roses gone thorning, seven leaves instead
Of five, gay, sportive blooms that had lost their seed
And names in lengthy Latin. I stared awhile
Beneath the copper beech where a railing guarded
Initials, wintered into the bark deep-cut,
Of W.B. and Y., A.G., A.J.
AE, and S.O’C.: thinking again
How Lady Gregory would drive twelve miles
Day after day, sun-reining in a phaeton, along
Her avenues—with Phaeton—through the Seven Woods,
By alleys of wild privet, lake-lingering,
To count the Swans for Willie.
                            I came to the bust:
Maecenas crumbling on his pedestal,
Obeyed the clear instructions in that unfinished
Poem of Yeats, calling to find the Echo
That lives by the high wall at the left-hand corner
In private:
                    “Echo, whereabouts can you hear
                    “My task in the future, can I know?”

                        “Must I still hope, still body on?”
“Yet how can I be certain my way is right?”

            “Tell me what thoughts had Carroll O’Daly, Swift,
Who called on other echoes, lonely as you?”


*Special Mention, Best International Poetry Films, 2022 Bloomsday Film Festival*
*Selected for the 2022 Ó Bhéal Festival*
*Selected for REELpoetry/HoustonTX, 2024*

Directed by Matthew Thompson.

Part of the second Coole Park Poetry Series, co-produced with Druid and curated by Colm Tóibín.

"The Echo at Coole" by Austin Clarke (Collected Poems, 2008) is reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press, Manchester, UK.