It’s all the same to morning what it dawns on —
On the bickering of jackdaws in leafy trees;
On that dandy from the wetlands, the green mallard’s
Stylish glissando among reeds; on the moorhen
Whose white petticoat flickers around the boghole;
On the oyster-catcher on tiptoe at low tide.

It’s all the same to the sun what it rises on —
On the windows in houses in Georgian squares;
On bees swarming to blitz suburban gardens;
On young couples yawning in unison before
They do it again; on dew like sweat or tears
On lilies and roses; on your bare shoulders.

But it isn’t all the same to us that night-time
Runs out; that we must make do with today’s
Happenings, and stoop and somehow glue together
The silly little shards of our lives, so that
Our children can drink water from broken bowls,
Not from cupped hands. It isn’t the same at all.

– Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Translated by Michael Longley


An aubade is ‘a love poem or song welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn’.
I like how this poem starts with a conversational, casual tone. In the first two stanzas, there’s a rather detailed description of how it doesn’t matter to the morning sun what it dawns on, rises on, with these lovely pastoral images. Then it segues into talk of whom it does matter to, and how much, and why.
You can read another aubade we’ve run by Philip Larkin here, one which is a huge contrast in tone and content even within the constraints of the form.
You can read a biography of the poet here and a longer biography here, and an interview with her here.

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