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JAMA Revisited
March 10, 2015

The Irish Physician as a Poet

Author Affiliations

JAMA. 1963;183(10):883.

March 9, 1963

JAMA. 2015;313(10):1064. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11646

No one knew the Irish peasant, his customs and problems, as well as the Irish physician. Although many of us are aware of medicine’s debt to Irish clinicians, few realize that they are remembered as well for songs and poems contributed over centuries to the Celtic heritage which we commemorate on March 17th. Beginning in this issue, The Journal presents the first in a series on “Irish Physician-Poets.”

The history of Eire has often been sad, and the Irish poets have mirrored her moods. The joy of the green hills and salmon-filled lakes is captured in lilting rhyme as is the anguish of famine, the hopes of emigrants, and the anger and hatred of the oppressed. When her conquerors forbade the very word “Ireland,” the Irish sang lovingly of Eileen Aroon. When her schools were closed down, the Irish hedge masters passed on the Celtic legends in epics and ballads to the young in the fields. The migrant bard was a loved and honored guest throughout Eire for not only did he bring entertainment, but also he immortalized local happenings and heroes in verses told and retold till the present day.