THE POEMS OF TERESA BRAYTON

by ehistoryadmin on February 1, 2018

LEINSTER LEADER 4 JANUARY 1986

The Poems of Teresa Brayton

By Eamonn Mulvihill

 

Teresa Brayton was born in Kilbrook, near Enfield, in 1868 and first wrote poetry as a young girl for the Land League and National League in the 1880’s. This was the decade of the Rise of Parnell, M.P. for Meath and the poems were published in local and national papers such as “The Nation” and the “Westmeath Independent”.

Teresa Boylan was her maiden name and she taught for a time at Newtown school before emigrating to the United States in 1895, aged 27 years. She worked in journalism and her poems of exile were often recited by herself at the end of Irish-American functions. In these poems of exile she cherished the small things of life that she remembered about the Ireland and the Kilbrook of her youth. She married a Canadian called Brayton and under this name she published two books of verse, “Songs of the Dawn” in 1913 and the “Flame of Ireland” in 1926.

It is fitting that “Brayton Cresent” is called after her because she has been described as “the poet of the homes of Ireland”. She wrote about the fireside chats, about ghosts and pookahs, about the sound of the latch lifting as neighbours came in to visit at night and about home-cooking, work and prayer. In The Old Boreen she writes:

 

Oh, do you remember the low white house,

With its coating of yellow thatch,

The earthern floor and the open door,

That swings to a ready latch.

 

Again, in The Old Fireside, she writes;

 

In some friendly place apart

When all their

tears are dried,

I know I’ll meet my neighbours

By God’s own fireside.

 

Teresa Brayton’s poems are about the cuckoo and corncrake, the thrush and the blackbird. Her poems also reveal her deep memories of the changing seasons of the Irish year.  Spring and Summer were the busy seasons of her youth with ploughing, haymaking and turf-cutting but Autumn and Winter brought rest. In the poem When the leaves begin to fall we can see this in the first verse;

 

When the days are getting

shorter and

The nights are growing long

And there comes a sort of

sadness in the

Robin’s evening song,

A feeling of contentment

settles down upon us all –

For our busy days are over

when the leaves begin to fall.

 

Her audience widened in Boston and New York as she published poems entitled Kerry, Leitrim, Derry, Clare and The Boy from the County Down. She reminded the Irish exiles abroad of the customs and the music that were native to them. The Enfield Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann is appropriately called the ‘Teresa Brayton Branch’ when one reads, in the poem Kerry the following lines which she remembers;

 

The Blue bogs purple with heather,

the ring of the crossroad set,

For dancing on summer evenings

to the tunes that I can’t forget.

 

The poems recall customs like Hunting the Wren and she also wrote very moving poems and blessings in celebration of Christmas.

 

Tis Christmas time in the Old

land now

There is brooding snow in the

wind

The turf-light flickers in shelf

and dresser

With holly and ivy twined

But you and I by the stranger’s

hearth

Think back to old times again

To the dear old ways and the

Stephen’s Days

That we went hunting the

Wren.

 

But there was also a sad, pathetic and poignant quality in the poems of Teresa Brayton. With great tenderness she could express the sense of loss at leaving Ireland, losing a friend – and especially her mother whose memory she had always cherished. This sense of sadness is best revealed in the central verse of The Old Bog Road.

 

My mother died last

Springtime

When Ireland’s fields were green….

 

Also in the poem In Memoriam she writes in memory of Thomas Cowley, Kilbrook;

Then we bade you goodbye

for ever and saw you borne

away

From the ceaseless noise of the

city to your home in the

churchyard clay.

On the slope of a country hill

side where the lights and

shadows pass,

And the night dews glitter like

Teardrops

A down on the sighing grass.

 

Finally, the poems of Teresa Brayton record the strong feelings she had about Irish freedom. She wrote about Robert Emmett, Parnell and the fight for Irish freedom. Poems such as Gerry Connor’s Forge and A Thousand More are about the cause of Irish liberty.

In 1959 an active committee of the Enfield Guild of Muintir Na Tire arranged the erection of a Celtic Memorial Cross over the grave of Teresa Brayton who died in 1943.   She had known Mrs. Pearse, Countess Markieviez and many others associated with the 1916 Rising so it was Eamon De Valera who came to Cloncurry and spoke at this occasion. The local committee was praised in the papers for their “enterprise” and for “showing what a small rural community can achieve without official assistance”. The members of the committee were Liam Corrigan, Pat McQuillan, Miss Margaret Kearney, Thomas Walsh, Michael Kearney and Robert Tuite. Local people subscribed to the costs.

Teresa Brayton worked for the Irish World newspaper. Elizabeth Deely of the New York Irish Drama League wrote in 1947 of Teresa Brayton: “She, more than any other, is the poet of the Irish exile.”

In the 1980s we in Enfield, especially the young people, are in a sense exiles-in-time from the world that Teresa Brayton remembered. Her poems will always be a primary source or window into the rural life of our district in the 1880s. In Songs of the Dawn 1913 she introduces us to her book:

 

Unto my own the Irish I send

with smiles and tears

This little book of melodies

caught from the flying years

With all the love that’s in me

and all the best I know

I’d call them back oe’r many a tract

To lands of long ago.

 

And since this is the Christmas season, I conclude with a quote from A Christmas Blessing by Teresa Brayton:

 

May peace be your treasure

and long be your living

With joy in good measure for

taking and giving

In friendship go leor beyond

bound or expressing

To your door I am sending this

Christmas Blessing.

 

 

 

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