26 September 2019

The missing anti-war
message in a poem
on a corner in Adare

‘Ye morning airs, how sweet at dawn’ … flowers in Adare on a September morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

While I was in Adare one morning earlier this week, I notice the poem ‘Oh, sweet Adare,’ by Gerald Griffin (1803-1840), the West Limerick novelist, poet and playwright, on the side of a pub wall.

Its position on a corner means it is not always noticeable, and this lengthy poem is not quoted fully [the missing verses are in square brackets]:

Oh, sweet Adare! Oh, lovely vale!
Oh, soft retreat of sylvan splendour.
Nor summer sun nor morning gale
E’er hailed a scene more softly tender
How shall I tell the thousand charms,
Within thy verdant bosom dwelling,
When lulled in Nature’s fostering arms,
Soft peace abides and joy excelling?

Ye morning airs, how sweet at dawn
The slumbering boughs your song awaken;
Or, linger o’er the silent lawn,
With odour of the harebell taken.
Thou rising sun, how richly gleams
Thy smile from far Knockfierna’s mountain
O’er waving woods and bounding streams,
And many a grove and glancing fountain.

Ye clouds of noon, how freshly there,
When summer heats the open meadows,
O’er parched hill and valley fair,
All coolly lie your veiling shadows.
Ye rolling shades and vapours gray,
Slow creeping o’er the golden heaven,
How soft ye seal the eye of day,
And wreathe the dusky brow of even.

[Where glides the Maigue as silver clear,
Among the elms so sweetly flowing,
There fragrant in the early year,
Wild roses on the banks are blowing,
There, wild ducks sport on rapid wing,
Beneath the alder’s leafy awning,
And sweetly there the small birds sing,
When daylight on the hill is dawning.]

In sweet Adare, the jocund spring
His notes of odorous joy is breathing,
The wild birds in the woodland sing
The wild flowers in the vale are breathing
There winds the Maigue, as silver clear,
Among the elms so sweetly flowing –
There fragrant in the early year,
Wild roses on the banks are blowing.

The wild duck seeks the sedgy bank,
Or dives beneath the glistening billow,
Where graceful droop and cluster dank
The osier bright and rustling willow;
The hawthorn scents the leafy dale,
In thicket lone the stag is belling,
And sweet along the echoing vale
The sound of vernal joy is swelling.

[Ah, sweet Adare; ah, lovely vale!
Ah, pleasant haunt of sylvan splendour;
Nor summer sun, nor moonlight pale
E’er saw a scene more softly tender.
There through the wild woods echoing arms
Triumphant notes of joy were swelling,
When, safe returned from war’s alarms,
Young Hyland reached his native dwelling.]

The window in an antique shop in Adare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Gerald Griffin was born in Limerick on 12 December 1803, one of three sons and four daughters of Patrick Griffin, a brewer. From the age of seven, he was raised at ‘Fairy Lawn,’ a cottage at Loughhill, between Askeaton and Foynes. He was educated in the classics in various schools from the age 11, taking a special interest in Virgil.

His family broke up when his parents moved to Pennsylvania in 1820, and Gerald, his brother Daniel and their two sisters moved to Pallaskenry, where their elder brother, Dr William Griffin.

In his teens, he edited the Limerick Advertiser, with the assistance of William Maginn and John Banim. He wrote a play, The Tragedy of Aguire, which was staged in 1842, two years after his death. Thomas Davis said it was one of the greatest historical dramas since Shakespeare. Griffin also contributed to the Literary Gazette and other publications.

When he returned to Limerick in 1827, he lived in Pallaskenry with his brother, and there he wrote his Tales of the Munster Festivals (1827) and The Collegians (1829). He was in Ennis, Co Clare, when Daniel O’Connell was elected MP in 1829, and this event that provides the conclusion of The Collegians, which is based on events in a trial in 1819 reported by Griffin, in which Daniel O’Connell acted as the defence, lawyer.

After the publication of The Collegians, Aubrey de Vere offered Griffin a room at Curragh Chase to write in peace, but he refused this. He continued to live in Pallaskenry, but travelled widely, visiting Taunton, Paris and Scotland. In 1838, he entered the Christian Brothers monastery in North Richmond Street, Dublin, as Brother Joseph, having burned his manuscripts, including Aguire. He moved to North Monastery, Co Tipperary, in 1839 and died there of fever on 12 June 1840.

Griffin’s ‘Eileen Aroon’ was much admired by Tennyson, and Both Dion Boucicault’s Colleen Bawn (1860) and Sir Julius Benedict’s The Lily of Killarney (1862) were based on his pay The Collegians.

The poem ‘Oh, sweet Adare!’ may read like popular doggerel today, but its subtle anti-war message is contained in the final verse, missing from the pub wall in Adare. This poem included in many anthologies in the 19th century, and later became a popular folk song.

Gerald Griffin’s poem on the corner of ‘Aunty Lena’s’ in Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Charting my visits to
synagogues in Dublin
and around the world

The cupola of the Neue Synagoge or New Synagogue in the Spandau area of Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Yehuda Amichai’s ‘Poem Without an End,’ translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch, is quoted by Simon Schama in his Belonging, the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 (Penguin, 2017):

Poem Without an End (‘שיר אינסופי’)

Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum.

Over the past ten years or so, I have visited and blogged about synagogues in at least a dozen countries.

Apart from visiting synagogues in Ireland, I have visited and blogged about more than 40 synagogues and the sites of former synagogues in Albania (1), Austria (1), the Czech Republic (6), England (5), Germany (2), Greece (5), Italy (7), Morocco (2), Poland (7), Portugal (4), Spain (5).

Before I began this blog, I had also visited synagogues and Jewish communities in Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel and the West Bank, Romania and Turkey.

But I have also visited many synagogues and former synagogues in Ireland, including Dublin, Derry, Limerick and Waterford.

I have realised that I have not blogged about Dublin’s synagogues, past and present, with the same attention as I have written about synagogues and other countries. So, as I prepare a blog series on the synagogues of Dublin, I have put together a list of my blog postings on synagogues.

I plan to up-date this list as this Dublin series is posted over the next few weeks, and hope to up-date it in the future as I write about visits to other synagogues around the world.

Albania’s first synagogue, built in Onchesmos or Saranda in the fourth or fifth century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)


1, Saranda: the fifth-century synagogue of Onchesmos (29 August 2019).


1, Vienna: not available yet.


1, The Jewish community of Hong Kong (19 April 2006).

The wrought-iron rococo grille that adorns the bimah in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, seen from the women’s gallery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Czech Republic:


1, The ‘Old-New’ Synagogue (29 January 2019)).

2, The High Synagogue (30 January 2019).

3, The Maisel Synagogue (30 January 2019).

4, The Klausen Synagogue (31 January 2019).

5, The Spanish Synagogue (31 January 2019).

6, The Pinkas Synagogue (1 February 2019).

Old Jewry stands in the heart of the original Jewish ghetto in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)



1, The Cambridge Synagogue and Jewish Student Centre (20 July 2013)


2, The site in Old Jewry of the Great Synagogue of London until 1271 (29 April 2016).

3, Kehillas Ya’akov, Commercial Road, Stepney (1 February 2018).

4, The site of a synagogue at Threadneedle Street, built in 1231 (17 February 2019).


5, Peterborough Hebrew Congregation, formerly on 142 Cobden Avenue (17 August 2019).

The site of Berlin’s first synagogue at Heidereutergasse, dedicated in 1714 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)



1, The New Synagogue, Oranienburger strasse (13 September 2018).

2, The Alten (Old) Synagogue (31 December 2018).

The bimah in the Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)



1, The Etz Hayyim Synagogue (18 June 2018)


2, The Nuova or New Synagogue, Corfu (24 August 2019).


3, The site of the mediaeval synagogue (9 June 2018).


4, The Kahal Shalom Synagogue (25 June 1999).


5, The Monasterioton Synagogue, Syngrou Street (8 April 2018).



1, The former synagogue in Kennedy Place, Derry (24 May 2019).


2, The former synagogue at 63 Wolfe Tone Street (2 July 2017).

3, The former synagogue at Hillview, Wolfe Tone Street (2 July 2017).


4, The former synagogue at 56 Manor Street, Waterford (15 March 2019)

Inside the Scuola Spagnola in Venice, founded around 1580 by Spanish and Portuguese speaking Jews (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)



1, The synagogue on Via Mario Finzi (17 November 2017).


2, The Great Synagogue of Rome (7 January 2017).


3, The Scuola Spagnola (19 November 2018).

4, The Scuola Grande Tedesca (19 November 2018).

5, The Scola Levantina (19 November 2018).

6, The Scuola Canton (9 November 2018).

7, The Scuola Italiana (9 November 2018).

The Synagogue Rebbi Akiva on Rue Synagogue was originally built in the mid-19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)



1, The Synagogue Rebbi Akiva (30 October 2018).

2, The Moshe Nahon Synagogue (30 October 2018).

The Old Synagogue built in Kraków 1407 is the oldest Jewish house of prayer in Poland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)



1, The Old Synagogue (Synagoga Stara), Szeroka Street (12 November 2016).

2, The Remu'h Synagogue, Szeroka Street (12 November 2016).

3, The Wolf Popper Synagogue, Szeroka Street (12 November 2016).

4, The High Synagogue or Synagoga Wysoka, Jozefa Street (12 November 2016).

5, The Isaak Jakubowicz Synagogue, Kupa Street (12 November 2016).

6, The Kupa Synagogue, Kupa Street (12 November 2016).

7, The Tempel Synagogue, Miodowa Street (12 November 2016).

The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto is one of the largest in western Europe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)



1, The Kadoorie Mekor Haim (‘Spring of Life’) Synagogue (6 February 2019).

2, The site of the first synagogue in Porto at Igreja dos Grilos (12 February 2019).

3, The site of the 14th century synagogue at Rua do Comércio do Porto (12 February 2019).

4, The site of the synagogue at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Vitória (12 February 2019).

The women’s balcony above the entrance to the synagogue in Córdoba (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)



1, The site of the old synagogue at the Church of Sant Jaume on Calle Ferran (8 May 2016).


2, The synagogue built by Simon Majeb in 1315 (7 June 2019).


3, The synagogue and Sephardic heritage centre, Plaza de Judería (5 June 2019).


4, Former synagogue at the Church of Santa María la Blanca (27 October 2018)

5, The Jewish Interpretive Centre, Ximenez de Enisco (27 October 2018)

Tomorrow: The synagogues of Dublin: 1, Crane Lane, Dame Street.