"..... my best is not yet written. I mean to do something really great if I am spared, but out here one may at any moment be hurled beyond Life."
So wrote Francis Ledwidge in an extraordinary letter from the trenches written a month before his death in World War One.
In the letter he talks of why he, an Irish nationalist, joined the British Army: "I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilization, and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions."
He writes beautifully about his early shyness: "I have always been very quiet and bashful and a great mystery in my own place. I avoided the evening play of neighbouring children to find some secret place in a wood by the Boyne and there imagine fairy dances and hunts, fires and feasts. I saw curious shapes in shadows and clouds and loved to watch the change of the leaves and the flowers, I heard voices in the rain and the wind and strange whisperings in the waters."
And he tells us something of how he writes: "Of myself. I am a fast writer and very prolific. I have long silences, often for weeks, then the mood comes over me, and I must write and write no matter where I be or what the circumstances are. I do my best work in Spring. I have had many disappointments in life and many sorrows, but in my saddest moment song came to me and 1 sang. I get more pleasure from a good line than from a big cheque."
The letter was included in Legends of the Boyne and Selected Prose of Francis Ledwidge- edited by Liam O Meara and is reproduced on the dublin.ie forum. To read it, click this link and stroll down the page, past the picture of Ledwidge.