'Will You Taste Some Irishness?' II (2003)

Reply Tue 25 Feb, 2003 11:32 pm

The bickering of vowels on the buses,
the clicking thumbs and the big hips of
the navy-skirted ticket collectors with
their crooked seams brought it home to me:

Exile. Ration-book pudding.
Bowls of dripping and the fixed smile
of the school pianist playing "Iolanthe,"
"Land of Hope and Glory" and "John Peel."

I didn't know what to hold, to keep.
At night, filled with some malaise
of love for what I'd never known I had,
I fell asleep and let the moment pass.

The passing moment has become a night
of clipped shadows, freshly painted houses,
the garden eddying in dark and heat,
my children half-awake, half-asleep.

Airless, humid dark. Leaf-noise.
The stirrings of a garden before rain.
A hint of storm behind the risen moon.
We are what we have chosen. Did I choose to?--

in a strange city, in another country,
on nights in a north-facing bedroom,
waiting for the sleep that never did
restore me as I'd hoped to what I'd lost--

let the world I knew become the space
between the words that I had by heart
and all the other speech that always was
becoming the language of the country that

I came to in nineteen fifty-one:
barely-gelled, a freckled six-year-old,
overdressed and sick on the plane,
when all of England to an Irish child

was nothing more than what you'd lost and how:
was the teacher in the London convent who,
when I produced "I amn't" in the classroom
turned and said--"You're not in Ireland now."
(Eavan Boland)

For more on Eavan Boland go to:
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Reply Wed 26 Feb, 2003 08:26 am
Thanks for that one, jjorge. It's beautiful, and such an emotionally true description of how a powerless child in that situation might try to deal with it: counting on sleep to "restore me ... to what I'd lost", because she had no other recourse.
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Reply Wed 26 Feb, 2003 09:41 am

Glad you liked it. I'm very impressed with Eavan Boland and plan to read more of her work. The link beneath today's poem is well worth reading if you haven't already. Here is an excerpt:

"...Through her writing of things common, Boland attempts to give value to experiences which many women share. She believes that the poetic tradition's disregard for these experiences, which are valued by women, leads to a devaluation of women themselves... She writes from the standpoint of someone who is doubly oppressed, by her gender and by her nationality, and yet her work embraces these identities.... Reading her poetry requires an understanding of the history of Ireland and its relationship to England. In addition she refers to the primarily male poetic tradition of Ireland and her attempts to make a place for herself within the tradition..."
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Reply Wed 26 Feb, 2003 01:56 pm

Good one! I have a friend who still seems to struggle with that situation every day, and he's now in his 40's! Trouble is, once they get past the age of wanting sleep to restore them, alcohol often takes over Sad
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Reply Thu 27 Feb, 2003 03:31 am
The Fenian Record Player
Wee Wullie John McFadden was a Loyal Ulster Prod
Who thought that Ian Paisley was one step down from God
He scorned the little children in the back streets of Ardoyne
And he thought that Irish History started with the Battle of the Boyne.

One day he took a brick in hand and dandered up the Falls
He was singing "Up King Billy" and humming "Derry's Walls"
He broke a big church window to annoy the Pope of Rome
And stole a record player and started off for home.

Next night they had a hooley at the local Orange Hall
And Wee Wullie took his record player to make music for them all
He chose a stack of records of a very loyal kind
But when the music started he nearly lost his mind.

The Fenian Record Player was a Rebel to the core
It played out songs the Orange Hall had never heard before
For "Dolly's Brae! and "Derry's Wallls" it didn't give a fig
It speeded up "God Save the Queen" till it sounded like a jig.

The lads were plain demented, to the ground Wee Wullie was thrown
They kicked his ribs in one by one to the tune of "Garryowen"
They threw him out the window to the song of "Old Sinn Fein"
And kicked him down the Sandy Row to "A Nation Once Again".

There's a moral to this story, what it is I cannt say
Or maybe its that old saying "Crime, it will not pay"
But if you ask Wee Wullie, he'll say" stick to the Orange Code"
If you want to steal a record player, do it up the Shankill Road.
0 Replies
Reply Thu 27 Feb, 2003 06:24 am

I like it. Where can I get a record player like that?
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Reply Thu 27 Feb, 2003 08:09 am
I have two poems for today.

The first, by Donagh McDonagh is a eulogy for fellow poet and Irishman, Charles Donnelly, who died in Spain fighting for the Republicans at age twenty three.

from: 'Charles Donnelly'
Dead in Spain 1937

Of what a quality is courage made
That he who gently walked our city streets
Talking of poetry or philosophy,
Spinoza, Keats,
Should lie like any martyred soldier
His brave and fertile brain dried quite away
And the limbs that carried him from cradle to death's
Growing down into foreign clay.

Gone from amongst us and his life not half begun
Who had followed Jack-o'-Lantern truth and liberty
Where it led wavering from park-bed to prison-cell
Into a strange land, dry misery;
And then into Spain's slaughter, sniper's aim
And his last shocked embrace of earth's lineaments.
Can I picture truly that swift end
Who see him dead with eye that still repents?

What end, what quietus can I see for him,
Who had the quality of life in every vein?
Life with its passion and poetry and its proud
Ignorance of eventual loss or gain . . .
This first fruit of our harvest, willing sacrifice
Upon the alter of his integrity,
Lost to us. Somewhere his death is charted,
A signature affixed to his brief history.


They gave him a gun,
A trigger to pull that any peasant finger
Could have pulled as well, a barrel to keep sweet
That any eye from Valencia to Madrid
Could have looked through.
His body stopped a bullet and little else,
Stopped no tank or French 75
From crunching over roads of human bones.
His brain might have done that
But it has melted into Spanish soil,

But speaks into my brain in parody
Of the voice that was its servant,
And speaks only what it spoke before.
The intricate cells, the labyrinthine ways,
The multicoloured images that lurked and shone,
The dreams betrayed into expression,
Melted into a red earth, richer for olive crop.
And through the pleasant European landscapes
The legions march; theodolite and map
Plan out the tactical approach, the gun emplacement,
The unencumbered field for cemetery.
(Donagh McDonagh)

The second poem, by Donnelly himself, is entitled, simply, 'Poem'.
It seems eerily prophetic of his own death:


Between rebellion as a private study and the public
Defiance is simple action only which will flicker
Catlike, for spring. Whether at nerve-roots is secret
Iron, there's no diviner can tell, only the moment can
Simple and unclear moment, on a morning utterly
And under circumstances different from what you'd

Your flag is public over granite. Gulls fly above it.
Whatever the issue of the battle is, your memory
Is public, for them to pull awry with crooked hands,
Moist eyes. And villages' reputations will be built on
Inaccurate accounts of your campaigns. You're name for
Figure stone-struck beneath damp Dublin sky.

In a delaying action, perhaps, on a hillside in remote parish,
Outposts correctly placed, retreat secured to wood, bridge
Against pursuit, sniper may sight you carelessly
Or death may follow years in strait confinement, where
Is uniform as ceremony, lacking only fruit
Or on the barracks square before the sun casts shadow.

Name, subject of all considered words, praise and blame
Irrelevant, the public talk which sounds the same on
Tongue as true, you'll be with Parnell and with Pearse.
Name alderman will raise a cheer with, teacher make
Oblique in class, and boys and women spin gum of
On qualities attributed in error.

Man, dweller in mountain huts, possessor of colored mice,
Skilful in minor manual turns, patron of obscure
Gaelic swordsmanship and medieval armory,
The technique of the public man, the masked servilities
Not for you, Master of military trade, you give
Like Raleigh, Lawrence, Childers, your services but not
(Charles Donnelly 1914-1937)


For more on Charles Donnelly go here:

For more on Donagh McDonagh go here:
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Reply Thu 27 Feb, 2003 11:08 am
Great lines. I especially loved these...

jjorge*197982* wrote:

love for what I'd never known I had

restore me as I'd hoped to what I'd lost--

I came to in nineteen fifty-one: **

turned and said--"You're not in Ireland now."
(Eavan Boland)

** I did too, and so this line particularly struck me!

Thank you so much for this wonderful gift of Ireland to all of us. Is it just me thinking this or are the Irish truly more lyrical? <big smile>
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Reply Thu 27 Feb, 2003 11:42 am
Wouldn't it be cool if we could all meet in Ireland in the Fall!

Me, too. Me, too!

Tommy, do you still live in Kanturk?
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Reply Thu 27 Feb, 2003 11:59 am
This is Part 2 of three parts to Auden's Memory of W. B. Yeats:

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
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Reply Fri 28 Feb, 2003 12:16 pm
For today, a little more of Eavan Boland:

'Anna Liffey'

Life, the story goes,
Was the daughter of Cannan,
And came to the plains of Kildare.
She loved the flat-lands and the ditches
And the unreachable horizon.
She asked that it be named for her.
The river took its name from the land.
The land took its name from the woman.

A woman in the doorway of a house.
A river in the city of her birth.

There, in the hills above my house,
The river Liffey rises, is a source.
It rises in rush and ling heather and
Black peat and bracken and strengthens
To claim the city it narrated.
Swans, Steep falls. Small towns.
The smudged air and bridges of Dublin.

Dusk is coming.
Rain is moving east from the hills.

If I could see myself
I would see
A woman in a doorway
Wearing the colours that go with red hair.
Although my hair is no longer red.

I praise
The gifts of the river.
Its shiftless and glittering
Re-telling of a city,
Its clarity as it flows,
In the company of runt flowers and herons,
Around a bend at Islandbridge
And under thirteen bridges to the sea.
Its patience at twilight --
Swans nesting by it,
Neon wincing into it.

Maker of
Places, remembrances,
Narrate such fragments for me:

One body. One spirit
One place. One name.
The city where I was born.
The river that runs through it.
The nation which eludes me.

Fractions of a life
It has taken me a lifetime
To claim.

I came here in a cold winter.

I had no children. No country.
I do not know the name for my own life.

My country took hold of me.
My children were born.

I walked out in a summer dusk
To call them in.

One name. Then the other one.
The beautiful vowels sounding out home.

Make of a nation what you will
Make of the past
What you can --

There is now.
A woman in a doorway.

It has taken me
All my strength to do this.

Becoming a figure in a poem.

Usurping a name and a theme.

A river is not a woman.
Although the name it finds,
The history it makes
And suffers -
The Viking blades beside it,
The muskets of the Redcoats,
The flames of the Four Courts
Blazing into it
Are a sign.
Any more than
A woman is a river,
Although the course it takes,
Through swans courting and distraught willows,
In patience
Which is also its powerlessness,
From Callary to Islandbridge,
And from source to mouth,
Is another one.
And in my late forties
Past believing
Love will heal
What language fails to know
And needs to say -
What the body means -
I take this sign
And I make this mark:
A woman in the doorway of her house.
A river in the city of her birth.
The truth of a suffered life.
The mouth of it.

The seabirds come in from the coast
The city wisdom is that they bring rain.
I watch them from my doorway.
I see them as arguments of origin -
Leaving a harsh force on the horizon
Only to find it
Slanting and falling elsewhere.

Which water -
The one they leave or the one they pronounce -
Remembers the other?

I am sure
The body of an aging woman
Is a memory
And to find a language for it
Is as hard
As weeping and requiring
These birds to cry out as if they could
Recognise their element
Remembered and diminished in
A single tear.

An aging woman finds no shelter in language.
She finds instead
Single words she once loved
Such as 'summer' and 'yellow'
And 'sexual' and 'ready'
Have suddenly become dwellings
For someone else -
Rooms and a roof under which someone else
Is welcome, not her. Tell me,
Anna Liffey,
Spirit of water,
Spirit of place,
How it is on this
Rainy autumn night
As the Irish sea takes
The names you made, the names
You bestowed, and gives you back
Only wordlessness?

Autumn rain is
Scattering and dripping
From car-ports
And clipped hedges.
The gutters are full.

When I came here
I had neither
Children nor country.
The trees were arms.
The hills were dreams.

I was free
To imagine a spirit
In the blues and greens,
The hills and fogs
Of a small city.

My children were born.
My country took hold of me.
A vision in a brick house.
Is it only love
That makes a place?

I feel it change.
My children are
Growing up, getting older.
My country holds on
To its own pain.

I turn off
The harsh yellow
Porch light and
Stand in the hall.
Where is home now?

Follow the rain
Out to the Dublin hills.
Let it become the river.
Let the spirit of place be
A lost soul again.

In the end
It will not matter
That I was a woman. I am sure of it.
The body is a source. Nothing more.
There is a time for it. There is a certainty
About the way it seeks its own dissolution.
Consider rivers.
They are always en route to
Their own nothingness. From the first moment
They are going home. And so
When language cannot do it for us,
Cannot make us know love will not diminish us,
There are these phases of the ocean
To console us.
Particular and unafraid of their completion.
In the end
Everything that burdened and distinguished me
Will be lost in this:
I was a voice.
(Eavan Boland)

For more on Eavan Boland go to:

To view the Liffey River in Dublin go to:
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Reply Fri 28 Feb, 2003 01:22 pm
I though that, in counterpoint to all the poetry extolling the virtues of the the Emerald Isle, "Will Ye Come To The Bower", Cold-Flow Guinness and Warm Welcomes, I'd post the following poem by James Simmons. On that day three "no-warning" car bombs exploded in the Village. In October 2002, an anonymous letter implicated Father James Chesney of being involved in the bombing of Claudy Village on 31 July l972 and it is alleged that William Whitelaw, deputy UK Prime Minister and a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Conway, were involved in a cover-up to protect this priest.




For Harry Barton - A Song

The Sperrins surround it, The Faughan flows by,
At each end of Main Street the hills and the sky,
The small town of Claudy, at ease in the sun,
Last July, in the morning, a new day begun.

How peaceful and pretty, if the moment could stop,
McIlhenny is straightening things in his shop,
And his wife is outside serving petrol, and then,
A girl takes a cloth to a big window pane.

And McCloskey is taking the weight of his feet,
And McClelland and Miller are sweeping the street,
And delivering milk at the Beaufort Hotel,
Young Temple's enjoying his new job quite well.

And Mrs McLaughlin is scrubbing her floor,
And Artie Hone's crossing the street to a door,
And Mrs Brown looking around for her cat,
Goes off up an entry - what's strange about that?

Not much - but before she comes back to the road,
That strange car parked out side her house will explode,
And all of the people I've mentioned outide
Will be waiting to die or will already have died.

An explosion too loud for your eardrums to bear,
And young children squealing like pigs in the Square,
And all faces chalk-white and streaked with bright-red,
And the glass and the dust, the terrible dead.

For an old lady's legs are ripped off, and the head
Of a man's hanging open, and still he's not dead.
He is screaming for mercy, and his son stands and stares
And Stares, and suddenly quick, disappears.

And Christ, little Kathryn Aiken is dead,
And Mrs McLaughlin is pierced through the head,
Meanwhile to Dungiven the killers have gone,
And they're finding it hard to get through on the phone.


Patrick Connolly (15)
Kathryn Aiken (8)
Arthur Hone (38)
Joseph McCloskey (39)
Elizabeth McElhinney (59)
James McClelland (65)
Rose McLaughlin (52)
David Miller (60)
WillIam Temple (16)

Five Catholics and four Protestants.

God Be Good To Them

From an Anthology "Ferocious Humanism" edited by WJ McCormack
0 Replies
Reply Fri 28 Feb, 2003 01:36 pm
Hi Kara, No I live now in the "Black North"!
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New Haven
Reply Fri 28 Feb, 2003 01:47 pm

I read in the most recent issue of the Jerusalem Report that the Protestant Irish frequently wear the Star of David, to distinguish themselves from the Catholic Irish in Ireland. Shocked

Do you know how and why this got started?
0 Replies
Reply Fri 28 Feb, 2003 05:22 pm
New Haven, As I understand it, the flag of Israel, the Shield of David was adopted by Protestant "loyalists" to indicate the siege mentality in which they reckon they are in. This was in response to republicans using the the Palestinian Flag to indicate The siege THEY were under from the Loyalists. The Palestinian flag is flown in Republican areas of Belfast. The Shield of David was flown originally in loyalist areas of Belfast but over the last year this has spread to rural areas. For instance in one town and one village in Mid-ulster, weather-worn flags (really tattered rags now) are hanging dejectedly from every lamp standard. They do not improve the look of the places where they are flown. In fact they have come to indicate protestant/loyalist triumphalism and do not attract tourists. The kerb-stones on the pavements too are painted red white and blue - the colours of the UK Flag. All-in-all, sufficient to either make tourists uncomfortable or keep them away.
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New Haven
Reply Sat 1 Mar, 2003 06:12 am
Interesting to note that these things are being reported in the Jewish Press.
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Reply Sat 1 Mar, 2003 09:42 am
For Saturday March 1, 2003, a poem by Michael Hartnett:

'Death of an Irishwoman'

Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
all night were neither dogs or cats
but hobgoblin and darkfaced men
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a cardgame where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child's purse, full of useless things.
(Michael Hartnett)
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Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 03:22 pm
Late Entry* For Sunday March 2 2003:

'All Day I Hear The Noise Of Waters'

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is, when going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the waters'

The gray winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters
Far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.
(James Joyce)

For more on James Joyce go to:

* Sorry I goofed and failed to post it yesterday.
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Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 03:40 pm
For Monday March 3 2003:


Grey brick upon brick,
Declamatory bronze
On somber pedestals -
O'Connell, Grattan, Moore -
And the brewery tugs and the swans
On the balustraded stream
And the bare bones of a fanlight
Over a hungry door
And the air soft on the cheek
And porter running from the taps
With a head of yellow cream
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse.

This never was my town,
I was not born or bred
Nor schooled here and she will not
Have me alive or dead
But yet she holds my mind
With her seedy elegance,
With her gentle veils of rain
And all her ghosts that walk
And all that hide behind
Her Georgian facades -
The catcalls and the pain,
The glamour of her squalor,
The bravado of her talk.

The lights jig in the river
With a concertina movement
And the sun comes up in the morning
Like barley-sugar on the water
And the mist on the Wicklow hills
Is close, as close
As the peasantry were to the landlord,
As the Irish to the Anglo-Irish,
As the killer is close one moment
To the man he kills,
Or as the moment itself
Is close to the next moment.

She is not an Irish town
And she is not English,
Historic with guns and vermin
And the cold renown
Of a fragment of Church latin,
Of an oratorical phrase.
But oh the days are soft,
Soft enough to forget
The lesson better learnt,
The bullet on the wet
Streets, the crooked deal,
The steel behind the laugh,
The Four Courts burnt.

Fort of the Dane,
Garrison of the Saxon,
Augustan capital
Of a Gaelic nation,
Appropriating all
The alien brought,
You give me time for thought
And by a juggler's trick
You poise the toppling hour -
O greyness run to flower,
Grey stone, grey water,
And brick upon grey brick.
(Louis MacNeice)

For more on Louis MacNeice go to these links:


0 Replies
Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 04:37 pm
I did a little search for more on Louis MacNeice, specifically on his ambivalence towards Ireland.
I came up with the following exerpt.
It is from a discussion of a broader topic but, I think, it is still illuminating.

" . . . In 1939, Louis MacNeice wrote a poem entitled 'Dublin' which meditates on his own problematic relationship both to Dublin and Irishness . . . MacNeice's Irishness is still a problematic issue in cultural history: the son of a Protestant bishop (who paradoxically supported Home Rule), he was born in Belfast but educated in Marlborough and Oxford; in Terence Brown's words MacNeice was 'spiritually hyphenated' between Ireland and England (Brown 1975, 10). His poetry has frequently been interpreted in terms of that hyphenation: not properly Irish, not properly English. 'Dublin' articulates this position tersely and without self-pity: 'This was never my town,/I was not born nor bred/Nor schooled here and she will not/Have me alive or dead' (MacNeice 1966, 163). In the next stanza, however, MacNeice moves from his own predicament to a more lyrical placing of Dublin . . . 'the mist on the Wicklow hills/Is close, as close/As the peasantry were to the landlord,/As the Irish to the Anglo-Irish,/As the killer is close one moment/To the man he kills' (164). The displaced context which underlies this poem is, of course, the Second World War and MacNeice's own anguished debates about how he should contribute, if at all, to the war effort; by 1942 he would write the poem 'Neutrality', which bitterly castigates Ireland as 'The neutral island facing the Atlantic' (202). But here Ireland and England are brought into a proximity through the evocation of Dublin which is at once lyrical and unsettled. In the related formulations of the poem's closing stanzas Dublin 'is not an Irish town/And she is not an English' and is the 'Augustan capital/Of a Gaelic nation' (164). In this dazzling poem, the ambivalences of the historical relations between Ireland and England are poised beside a sense of 'the toppling hour' of contemporary history (164). . . "

From an article in: 'Renaissance Forum, Vol. 4 no. 2 (Nov. 2 2000) by Richard Danson Brown reviewing:
" But the Irish Sea Betwixt Us: Ireland, Colonialism, and Renaissance Literature." by Andrew Murphy.

for the whole article go to:
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