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The Poetry of Ireland

“An Old Woman of the Roads”, written by Padraic Colum and published in 1907, depicts the desire of an elderly woman to have a home of her own, a place where she might find spiritual as well as physical solace.

The poem evokes a strong sense of wistfulness, with the narrator longing for a future she doesn’t seem entirely convinced will ever come to fruition. That which she covets so intensely—a modest home with a hearth, sod for the fire, a working clock, and a cabinet filled with fine pottery—is striking in its simplicity, a testament to the conditions of abject poverty that define the existence of our homeless narrator. More broadly, a picture is painted of the struggles faced by Irish peasants during the early twentieth century, as well as the profound importance of Catholicism to ordinary Irish people.

The titular ‘old woman’ of “An Old Woman of the Roads” speaks in the first person, and the poem is composed of six quatrains, each governed by the ABCB rhyme scheme.

Considered one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival, Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was the first of eight children born to a working class family in County Longford. Upon completing his schooling, Colum obtained a clerkship with the Irish Railway Clearing House, where he remained until 1903, at which point he devoted himself primarily to writing and liaising with other prominent Irish writers of the period. Around this time, Colum also joined the Gaelic League, the inaugural board of the Abbey Theatre, and became a regular patron of the National Library of Ireland. Colum remains known and widely respected for his literary contributions as a poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, and children’s author.

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.
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