I am Raftery the poet Full of hope and love With no light in my eyes With gentleness that has no misery Going west upon my pilgrimage By the light of my heart Though feeble and tired To the end of my rove. Behold me now With my back to the wall Playing music Unto empty pockets.
Anthony Raftery, also known as Antoine O’Raifteiri, was born in Killedan, Ireland, in 1779. Blinded by a bout of smallpox as a child, he followed an oral tradition and is often considered the last wandering bard. Although none of his poetry was published during his lifetime, several of his literary acquaintances (including Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland, and Lady Gregory, a pivotal figure in the Irish Literary Revival) ensured that his oral poems survived in print. He died in 1835 and is buried in County Galway’s Cemetery of the Poets.