George Barker - Patrick Kavanagh - Brian Higgins - David Wright - C.H. Sisson - Anthony Cronin - John Jordan


For Patrick Swift
by George Barker

Patrick Swift, for whom I write
these long delayed lines in a night
given over to bad dreams and broken
images, I tender these words as token
to your green memory, if speech
like a homing pigeon can reach
you in the lightning shrouded, stark
and at last backyard of the dark.
I think it may, for there's a sense
in which the lost intelligence
illuminates and visits spheres
it neither knows, believes or hears
but like a bird tied at a stake
feels a flight it cannot make.
And so into six feet of ground
I have descended, and have found
and silently addressed the bone
that in turn speaks to my own.
Can you, Swift, like a flint spark
rise up from the gravelled dark
illuminating the vacuity
of non-existent eternity?
(The whistling whispering Swift would
if any could, if any could.)
I saw and heard his word walk over
water and wilderness, and uncover
mysteries that had long laid hid
under the spiritual pyramid.
I heard him charm the magical snake
down from its branch, and saw him take
ideals by the hand, and show
them how to peacock to and fro.
"The theology of the object: this
animates everything that is."
The brush that he held in his hand
sign and symbol, instrument and
artillery of his graphic will
performed, against all odds, as well
as that bright goldfishing diver
his tongue: both fished from the river
secrets only nature seemed
to know or the King Fisher dreamed.
The Dawn comes up as I write this
and in its own way this verse is
to thank Ireland for her gift
to us of the painter Patrick Swift:
for Kavanagh's honesty, Yeats
for the great images he creates,
for Synge. For MacNeice, for Joyce,
for Sam Beckett and all the warty boys
yes, let some decent praise be sung
And for Swift, the Golden Tongue.

— George Barker, poem for Patrick Swift, reproduced in PS...of course- Patrick Swift 1927-83, Gandon Editions, 1993


Patrick Kavanagh to Patrick Swift

Dear Paddy as George Barker does,
Letter in rhyme pleaseth us.
Here I am in old New York
With drinking as my daily work.
I see the Farrellys regular,
At present this is how they are:
John's right arm is paralysed
The radial nerve he was advised.
Dede is well and I'm sure the same
And nothing sorry that I came.
A year ago was Lecture Time
An orgy out of reality.
(To hell with rhyme)
It was something that had happened like a great
Love affair or an accident of fate
And we were involuntary players
At Olympian affairs.
Elizabeth Smart called
Much news of London she told
How you were raging
Over the bolloxy paging
In Nimbus. By the Lord Harry
George Barker is superior at this carry-
On in rhymed letter.
But I'll be better.
A defect in USA society
In the absence of that moiety
Of persons who can make the province
A Parnassian metropolis.
Provincials all.
I hear that Cronin is engaged
On life of Joyce- good man himself.
I hope your Oonagh and the baby
Are doing fine. I'll soon be back
About May and I may go via London
By air and see you there.
New York floats on whiskey.
The Arts Council I hear
Are publishing the Lectures,
They are in print.
Of course they are not the actual script
Though my praise of Barker is in.
I called it the Forgiven Plough
From Blake's line, you know:
'The cut worm forgives the plough.'
The audience is the cut worm,
Cronin gave me the idea.
As I mentioned at the top of this page
No consecrated bishops of the Muse,
Are here to confer orders:
All look to London or to some vague otherwhere.

Swift had introduced Dede and John Farrelly, whom he befriended in Positano, to Kavanagh, and it was under Dede's patronage that Kavanagh made his trip to New York - Gandon Editions, 1993


Dedicatory Poem to Patrick Swift
by Brian Higgins

Two boys were playing on a lonely beach
The sea broke on the coast, they did not care,
They had left school together for a dare
And left the dusty things that schoolmen teach.

Were they too gay, too daring on the rocks,
Surely such boyish laughter was not forced?
Playboys too young to know what youth must cost
Too free to notice other peoples clocks.

And so they rollicked on the western strand
The sacred isles glowed lovely in the morning;
They did not hear the sullen God's command
Or the black priest throw down his monstrous warning.

They had cast out all law, their game was touch
Not tit for tat, the double-take of fools,
They knew the score but did not keep it much
And only curbed their zest with witty rules.

Lost in that morning I have proved with tears
Remembering how those boys were you and I
And found through study, toil and broken years
That truant morning and that perfect sky.


by David Wright

I never imagined I
Should write your elegy.
I look out of the window
As you taught me to do.
All creation is grand.
Whatever is to hand
Deserves a line, praising
What is for being.

Thus at Westbourne Terrace
In long ago days
Brush in hand I'd see you
At your morning window
Transfer the thousand leaves
Of summer heavy trees
And delighting light
To another surface
Where they will not turn
With the turning season
But stay, and say
This is the mystery!
Or you would repeat
In pencil or in paint
The old stuffed pheasant too
That lived in your studio
Among jars of turps
With a visiting ghost,
Charles Baudelaire's photo.
All the eye lights on
There for delighting.
Or put it this way,
A thing of beauty
is joy perceived.
So you would give
Thanks for what is:
All art is praise.

Ah, those mornings
In many-hilled
Pombaline Lisbon:
The roads we travelled!
I do not mean
Only in Portugal—
Though now recalling
How, somewhere near
The river Guardiana
Going to Alcoutim,
We stopped the car
For, winding down
Round hills and bare,
Over no road came
The muleback riders
And blackshawled women
On foot, following
A coffin to nowhere:
Memento mori!

Or recollect
—Each of us unique—
Your head suddenly
Thrown back, oblique
Eye over the laughter:
An aslant look
As if to say
Did the joke carry? The
Underlaid irony
Over the joke?

I see now
Out of my window
Mist rising from
A leaden Eden
Drifting slowly
Under trees barely
Leaved to the ford.
Gentle and aloud
The water breaks
As white as bread
Over the under road.
On the far bank
A field with trees
Each standing naked
On a fallen dress,
Brown and gold leaves.
I might relate
How Swift my friend
Has gone, like these!
But I will not.
No cause for sadness,
You reader of Aquinas
And clear Horace.
Whom the gods love, die
Young but not easily.


For Patrick Swift
by C.H. Sisson

The dishes are untouched
And yet I see them all
Spread out under the moon.

Quiet which nothing spoils,
Not even appetite,
Hung on the point of wish.

Milk-white, with ruddy fruit
Only the angry heart
Is mean enough to ask.

Ice in the silver night
With the bird voices held
In silver cups, tonight.


To Patrick Swift

The tree grew under your hand one day,
So many shades of green growing over the white
Canvas, as through the actual leaves outside the window
And through the open window onto the canvas fell the light.

And I sat on the bed trying unsuccessfully to write,
Envying you the union of the painter's mind and hand,
The contact of brush with canvas, the physical communion,
The external identity of the object and the painting you had planned;

For among the shards of memory nothing that day would grow
Of its own accord,
And I thought I could never see, as you saw the tree on the canvas,
One draughtsman's word.

Only inside the mind,
In the rubble of thought,
Were the pro-and-con, prose-growing, all too argumentative
Poems I sought.

Whereas there in Camden Town
In the petrol fumes and gold of a London summer was the tree you drew,
As you might find anywhere, inside or outside the studio, something
Which was itself, not you.

Well envying I have said,
But the evening as we walked
Through the cooling twilight down
To the pub and talked

I saw what in truth I had envied—
Not in fact
That you were released from any obligation,
Or that the act

Of painting was less or more objective
Than thinking the word—
But that, like poems, your painting
Was of course the reward

Of the true self yielding to appearances
Outside its power
While still in the dominion of love asseverating
Its absolute hour.


Second Letter:
by John Jordan

Dear P.,

This letter may explain better
than words of the mouth,
words, words, words,
that soothed our drought
through rain and stars,
the mockery of dawn,
we cold as the trees.

For you must keep in mind
that we are less than kin,
but more than kind, for

While you were ranting your lyceum lines
careering the vaults of your glittering dooms,
bleeding at the heart from paper knives—
I have my nuances and Chekhovian glooms—
But we were both mummers, and so we got on.

mine was a mime of lime-scent and heart-break
quiet, frail, imbecile, thirsty for applause—
and O you knew that and nurtured me, because—
Thespis's children stick together
in sunlight and shower and weather
when the proud rose must surely fall,
thrown on a dump with all the rest of the trappings,

the split gold tights
the ragged brocade gown
the mothy ermine choker
the sweet tinsel crown
and our cascades of pasten jewels,
bright as tears,
worthless as tears,
your tears,
my tears.

Yes, mine was a mime of lime-scent and quiet heart
yours one of cypresses, and blood on the snow
but we both were mummers and didn't care to know,

to realize
to dig,
to pick away the paint,
to clutch the hand lovingly
around the white skull.
Skull last seen at the dead of night
or glimpsed at waking in the submarine light,
skull precious ivory,
to be kissed and touched tenderly...

As you may have noticed
the games are done
and I for one, my friend, am very tired.
I must confess, too, I find it hard
not to have regrets,
for years spent in plays
so unworthy of our talents.

It will be difficult to adapt ourselves to
ordinary life. And of course we'll always be
peculiar, rearing the head, pouting the
lips, stancing the body, when a stranger
comes into the room. You know that as well
as I do.

John Jordan
Dublin 1948


Dublin Oil - Dublin Watercolour/ Ink - Italy - Oakridge/ Ashwell Watercolour - Oakridge/ Ashwell Oil - London Oil - London Watercolour/ Ink - France - Algarve Oil - Algarve Watercolour/ Ink - Self-Portraits - Trees - Portraits I - Portraits II - Porches Pottery - Books - Misc - Algarve Studio
Note: many of the reproductions displayed here are of poor quality

By Swift
Nano Reid - Some notes on Caravaggio - Italian Report - The Artist Speaks - X magazine - RHA Exhibition 1951 - Eça de Queiroz & Fernando Pessoa - The Portuguese Enigma - Notebooks - All

About Swift
Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal - IMMA 1993 Retrospective Catalogue - Dublin 1950-2 - By His Friends - X magazine - Poems - Further Quotes About - All

By His Friends
Anthony Cronin - John Ryan - John Jordan - C.H.Sisson - Martin Green - John McGahern - David Wright - Lima de Freitas - Katherine Swift - Tim Motion - Lionel Miskin - Jacques D'Arribehaude - Brian Higgins - George Barker - Patrick Kavanagh

Further Quotes
Brian Fallon - Aidan Dunne - Derek Hill - Brendan Behan - Lucian Freud - Patrick Kavanagh - Elizabeth Smart - Further Quotes About