Of course, I’ve always been an Anglophile, loving everything British. I’m also a Celtophile, loving everything Irish. Not being intimately involved in “The Troubles,” I can be both. I’m with the Irish Catholics on this one, however. The English had absolutely no business marauding in Ireland, beating down the land and the people for centures.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been re-reading For the Love of Ireland, edited by Susan Cahill. It’s a literary companion with excerpts from great Irish writing and the places that inspired them.
W.B. Yeats recorded what Oscar Wilde once said at a dinner table: “We Irish are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.” This captures the lovely and whimsical spirit of a people who live in a wild and beautiful place–an “Emerald Isle,”–a place “of saints and scholars.” But why, beside their own nature, are the Irish so gifted and loquacious? Why are they such “scrappers”–willing to fight with words and fists at the drop of a hat? 😉 Because they have suffered:
In Ireland: Presences, Pete Hamill says, “The Irish, like the Jews, are a people To Whom Things Were Done. They were a people warred against, a people invaded, a nation shredded by the iron will of others. So they have the blarney, the shamrocking of history, the gossamer inventions, the dark murmur of an antique past, when the Irish learned to lie in order to live…disguising feeling, using charm and double-talk to live another hour…Those skills were fashioned to protect a people against a crime.”
I also love James Joyce’s goal for his writing about Dublin: “… converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own…showing the significance of trivial things.”
Some of my other favorites: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, A Terrible Beauty and Trinity by Leon Uris, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Susan’s husband, Thomas Cahill. Movies like Far and Away, My Left Foot, The Quiet Man, Ryan’s Daughter, The Commitments, and The Boxer.
Ireland! What a land. What a people. What a love.