President Michael D Higgins releases text of his new poem

The Prophets are Weeping tackles extremism and is first poem since assuming office

The President said his poem was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

The President said his poem was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

President Michael D Higgins has released the text of the only poem he has written since assuming office in 2011.

The Prophets are Weeping with its references to extremism and the displacement of people could hardly be more topical given the situation in the Middle East.

The poem was completed last year before the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris which left 12 people dead. That attack inspired the following week’s cover which featured the prophet Mohammad weeping.

Mr Higgins finalised the poem in October last year but had been working on it for some time.

The President was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict. The poem begins:

“To those on the road it is reported that The Prophets are weeping, At the abuse of their words, Scattered to sow an evil seed.”

The President first mentioned the poem publicly at the Gaisce awards to young people last week.

He said he was concerned that levels of youth unemployment would drive many young people towards extremists.

“It would be very wrong if we just stepped back and allowed the marginalisation of young people, that they be left in ghettos of Europe to be available to the predators of fundamentalism and the abuses of texts,” he said.

He referred to the “incredible threats from those who abuse sacred texts”.

He included the text of the poem in his Christmas card but it has not been more widely available until now.

The President once lectured on the sociology of migration and has often referred to the movements of people in different speeches.

He has also frequently referred to his own time as an emigrant in the UK and the United States.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, President Higgins expressed solidarity with the people of France and “Ireland’s unfaltering commitment to the freedom of thought and expression that today’s cruel events have attempted to undermine.”

President Higgins has published four books of poetry to date: The Betrayal in 1990, The Season of Fire in 1993, An Arid Season in 2004 and New and Selected Poems in 2011.

The Prophets are Weeping

To those on the road it is reported that

The Prophets are weeping,

At the abuse

Of their words,

Scattered to sow an evil seed.

Rumour has it that,

The Prophets are weeping,

At their texts distorted,

The death and destruction,

Imposed in their name.

The sun burns down,

On the children who are crying,

On the long journeys repeated,

Their questions not answered.

Mothers and Fathers hide their faces,

Unable to explain,

Why they must endlessly,

No end in sight,

Move for shelter,

for food, for safety, for hope.

The Prophets are weeping,

For the words that have been stolen,

From texts that once offered,

To reveal in ancient times,

A shared space,

Of love and care,

Above all for the stranger.

M.D.H. 2014

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