The Irish today, in America and at home, are somewhere between memory and forgetting. Amnesia and denial, whether self-induced o engineered by technicians of power, are being challenged by a rising hunger to reclaim a real identity free of hype, stereotype, and shame.
I continually ask what it means to have Irish roots when so far long ago my Irish ancestors immigrated. And despite just claiming myself as American, I am indeed mindful of these Irish roots that give me my surname, appearance, and perhaps even my temper. Most certainly these roots have given me an appreciation for lyric. For example, one of my favorite Yeats' poems:
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds togetherIs to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, 'To be born woman is to know--
Although they do not talk of it at school--
That we must labour to be beautiful.'
I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'
We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
But what of Saint Patrick?
Saturday, March 17, 2007
on being irish on the feast of saint patrick
Saint Patrick's Day in the U.S. is usually a bad Irish joke. And yet in may ways this is mostly what the Irish in America conceive of in celebrating being Irish: green beer, a parade with cops and firemen, starting to drink at 10AM, leprechauns, and green. Tom Hayden writes in his IRISH ON THE INSIDE: