A Student of History

June 4, 2006

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Filed under: Ireland — John Maass @ 7:53 pm

The Wind That Shakes The Barley is the name of the award winning film (Cannes) directed by Ken Loach, which is a sympathetic look at Republicans in early 20th century Ireland.  That is to say, its about those in Ireland fighting for Irish independence against British rule in order to establish the Irish Republic we have with us today. The title is from a Robert D. Joyce poem:

I sat within the valley green
I sat me with my true love
My sad heart strove the two between
The old love and the new love
The old for her, the new that made me
Think on Ireland dearly
While soft the wind blew down the glen
And shook the golden barley

‘Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, “The mountain glen
I’ll seek at morning early
And join the bold united men
While soft winds shake the barley”

While sad I kissed away her tears
My fond arms round her flinging
The foeman’s shot burst on our ears
From out the wildwood ringing
A bullet pierced my true love’s side
In life’s young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died
While soft winds shook the barley

But blood for blood without remorse
I’ve taken at Oulart Hollow
And laid my true love’s clay cold corpse
Where I full soon may follow
As round her grave I wander drear
Noon, night and morning early
With breaking heart when e’er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley

Here is a very short summary:

Ireland 1919: workers from field and country unite to form volunteer guerrilla armies to face the ruthless ‘Black and Tan’ squads that are being shipped from Britain to block Ireland’s bid for independence.  Driven by a deep sense of duty and a love for his country, Damien abandons his burgeoning career as a doctor and joins his brother, Teddy, in a dangerous and violent fight for freedom. As the freedom fighters’ bold tactics bring the British to breaking point, both sides finally agree to a treaty to end the bloodshed. But despite the apparent victory, civil war erupts and families who fought side by side find themselves pitted against one another as sworn enemies, putting their loyalties to the ultimate test. 

In today’s Sunday Independent newspaper out of Dublin is an opinion piece which states

The Wind That Shakes The Barley will shake the Fine Gael party in a way that Michael Collins did not. That is the prediction of Arts Minister John O’Donoghue, who saw the film on his visit to the French film festival, and he feels that while Michael Collins left Fianna Fail fans of de Valera feeling less than happy, the latest offering from British director Ken Loach will be much kinder to his political antecedents.

 Also see update here.


  1. Such a beautiful poem,an old lady remembered learning this poem at school, as a Speech & Drama Teacher I was very interested.
    It is beautiful, I am sure now that the film has been released my students will be very interested in this poem.

    Marie Costelloe

    Comment by Marie Costelloe — July 13, 2006 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  2. This is missing a verse (below) should go between the last 2 verses you listed:

    I bore her to some mountain stream
    And many’s the summer blossom
    I placed with branches soft and green
    About her gore-stained bosom
    I wept and kissed her clay-cold corpse
    Then rushed o’er vale and valley
    My vengeance on the foe to wreak
    While soft winds shook the barley

    Comment by John — February 15, 2008 @ 6:01 am | Reply

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