dedalus Posted May 24, 2009 Share Posted May 24, 2009 Returning Greed for the gold of strangers feeds on this ancient slant-lit land, obscures hard truths, trades on illusions, lavishes praise on the safely dead. In our shared complicity lies our shame: Poor Emmet, here’s your epitaph. I. A straggle of houses, a looming church, an empty street with breeze-blown signs; here in the rural heart of Ireland, wild and wet and windswept, see the locals dine on spuds and bacon, take a last quick look at the form sheet, and attack the cabbage. By night, by God, in smoke-filled pubs, they sing the old and wild songs yet, still for themselves, and not for the tourists the haunting airs of the crossroads. And in other pubs, not a score of miles across these dark and silent fields, the same old songs rise up in the night with the shots and sudden shouts of command of an alien army in the streets. There it's the old and cruel Ireland, where weapons take the place of words, where the past can still breed new fanatics, new sorrows … new anger … new graves. II. Are tales still told by the fireside, merry eyes in weathered gentle faces, the caps pulled down, the drinks on the hob, the smell of the slowly burning turf? No more, it seems, with the cars and the telly, the satellite phones, the electric range; but divil a change in the flow of the talk, in the needling, cheerful banter, and none in the love of the lilt of a song, the expectant silence that greets a verse: slaves are we still to the gods of language, to the rush and the rhythm of eloquent words that sweep all things before. Flow over them with your waves and with your waters, Mananaan, Mananaan MacLir! Slipping out the door from Sunday Mass as the priest begins his sermon: a smoke on the steps, a chat with the lads, then back to the mumble of responses, to the blend of incense and damp clothing. Faith of our fathers, thirsty work, but soon the pubs will open. (The pubs will always soon be open!) And soft the same familiar rain will fall on the fields of vivid green, on the grey, untidy streets. III. At the door of T.P Flanagan’s the smell of the porter would fell a horse: ‘Sure, welcome home, and what'll ye have?’ says the man himself behind the bar, when wrapped around the remains of a pint, an oul' fella ups from the corner: ‘This counthry's gone to hell in a handcart! (smiles of delight run around the room) ‘I'd leave meself only the age that's in it’. From the bar: ‘True for you, John Joe! ‘Now hould yer whisht and have another’. The pints, unbidden, line up on the bar. If a man won't drink he should wear a badge, in a decent, sensible Irish way; for an offer spurned is a terrible thing, where there's little forgiven, even less forgotten. ‘God's curse on the IRA! ‘ (the oul' fella still in the corner) ‘Tis well for them Yanks to be sending them money, ‘Tis our lads do the dying’. Our lads. Not me. And not these others, gone silent now, musing on the wreck of a tribal dream defiled by murder. Envoi: On the cloud-touched cliffs of Dun Aengus, see the woman old and lonely as she sits upon the lea, white-haired, gazing on the great wide ocean. O Cathleen, where is thy beauty now? the ivory skin, the raven hair, the lips like blood upon the snow? Turn again those fine deep eyes, turn once again those fearless eyes and look upon this land! ____________________________________ Notes: (I changed the original title --"Homecoming" aka "The Return" -- out of deference to JoelJosol.) 1."Emmet" - Robert Emmet, the "Darling of Erin" who was publicly hung drawn and quartered after a failed uprising in Dublin in 1803. At his trial he declared, "When my country takes her rightful place among the nations of the world, then, and only then, let my epitaph be written." 2. Mananaan MacLir - the Celtic god of the sea. 3. "hould yer whisht" - hold your breath; stop talking. 4. Dun Aengus - a prehistoric stone fort perched on a cliff edge in the Aran Islands, a traditional Gaelic-speaking island group lying off the west coast. 5. Cathleen - Cathleen ni Houlihan, a traditional representation of the soul of Ireland as a very old (and sometimes young and beautiful) woman. The land is perceived as feminine and its name in Irish, Éire, is derived from the goddess Ériu. Quote Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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