IWANE Logo Poems about the
Irish Wolfhound


Denis Florence McCarthy

As fly the shadows o'er the grass
He flies with step as light and sure,
He hunts the wolf through Tostan Pass
And starts the deer by Lisanoure,
The music of the Sabbath bells,
O Con! has not a sweeter sound
Than when along the valley swells
The cry of John MacDonnell's hound.

His stature tall, his body long,
His back like night, his breast like snow,
His forleg pillar-like and strong,
His hind leg like a bended bow,
Rough curling hair, head long and thin,
His ear a leaf so small and round --
Not Bran, the favorite dog of Finn,
Could rival John MacDonnell's hound.

(To An Irish Wolfhound)
Christopher Morley

Long and grey and gaunt he lies,
A Lincoln among dogs; his eyes
Deep and clear of sight, appraise
The meaningless and shuffling way
Of human folk that stop to stare.
One witless woman seeing there
How tired, how contemptuous
He is of all the smell and fuss
Asks him, “Poor fellow, are you

Yea, sick and weary to the quick
Of heat and noise from dawn to dark.
He will not even stoop to bark
His protest, like the lesser bred.
Would he might know, one gazer read
The wistful longing in his face,
The thirst for wind and open space
And stretch of limbs to him

There came a little, dapper, fat
And bustling man, with cane and spat
And pearl-grey vest and derby hat --
Such were the judger and the

Katharine Lee Bates

Wisest of dogs was Vigi, a tawny-coated hound
That King Olaf, warring over green hills of Ireland, found;
His merry Norse were driving away a mighty herd
For feasts upon the dragon-ships, when an isleman dared a word:

"From all those stolen hundreds, well might ye spare my score."
"Aye, take them," quoth the gamesome king, "but not a heifer more.
Choose out thine own, nor hinder us; yet choose without a slip."
The isleman laughed and whistled, his finger at his lip.

Oh, swift the bright-eyed Vigi went darting through the herd
And singled out his master's neat with a nose that never erred.
And drave the star-marked twenty forth, to the wonder of the king,
Who bought the hound right honestly, at the price of a broad gold ring.

If the herd-dog dreamed of an Irish voice and of cattle on the hill,
He told it not to Olaf the King, whose will was Vigi's will,
But followed him far in faithful love and bravely helped him win
His famous fight with Thorir Hart and Raud, the wizard Finn.

Above the clamor and the clang shrill sounded Vigi's bark
And when the groaning ship of Raud drew seaward to the dark,
And Thorir Hart leapt to the land, bidding his rowers live
Who could, Olaf and Vigi strained hard on the fugitive.

'Twas Vigi caught the runner's heel and stayed the wind-swift flight
Till Olaf's well-hurled spear had changed the day to endless night
For Thorir Hart, but not before his sword had stung the hound,
Whom the heroes bore on shield to ship, all grieving for his wound.

Now proud of heart was Vigi to be borne to ship on shield,
And many a day thereafter, when the bitter thrust was healed,
Would the dog leap up on the Vikings and coax with his Irish wit
Till 'mid laughter a shield was leveled, and Vigi rode on it.


Finn the son of Fiona Finn rode into the cabin yard
Where Bran was beating a great wolf-hound,
Roped to a tree three times around;
But the fall of the club was the only sound,
For the brave and the strong die hard.

Beneath the slant of his feathered hat the face of Finn grew red;
His hand was quick to his hunting gun
That shone -- a threat in the mountain sun --
"Another stroke -- an' your life is done!
Make loose the dog!" he said.

Bran stood straight in the sunlight and blinked at the morning sky;
His tongue was stiff with the taste of fear
And the voice of Finn was in his ear:
"God may forgive ye, clean and clear,
But never the dog nor I!

"His kin have crouched at the feet of Kings and you think to kill his pride!"
The rope fell slack to the bloody ground,
Then up from the tree gat the great wolf-hound,
And followed Finn as he reined him round
And over the mountain-side.

Then thunder spake from the silence and shattered the Bloody Tree,
And the heart of Bran was filled with dread,
As the ground was washed of its clotted red,
And a cross of black stood in its stead,
As the dawn rose tremblingly.