Tag Archives: W. B. Yeats

Catching up with modern Ireland: June

No sooner were the votes counted in last month’s successful repeal of Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion, than feminists and other liberals turned their attention to a new referendum. This time the targets are removing language about blasphemy and the women’s role in the home.

The Republic’s constitution “recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall, therefore, endeavor to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

Regarding blasphemy, the constitution says, “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

The referendum, likely in October, would be held alongside the presidential election – if one is called, Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said in a government statement. Both referendum issues are expected to cruise to easy passage with only minimal opposition.

But is the pendulum swinging too far to the left? As Father Gerard Moloney wrote in The Irish Times:

Now there is a sense that we have replaced one form of intolerance with another. Just as it was difficult to speak out against the cozy religious, social and moral consensus of 50 years ago, it is difficult to speak out against the dominant cultural mindset of today. … A new secular judgmentalism has replaced the old religious judgmentalism of yesteryear.

Also in June:

  • The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland released polling data showing that that 84 percent of the Irish population believe U.S. companies are critical to the economic future.  Over 155,000 Irish work for American companies.
  • The same week as the survey release (coincidence?), Amazon opened a 170,000-square-foot building in Dublin and announced that it will add 1,000 jobs to the 2,500 people it already employees in Ireland.
  • Another Irish-British handshake: While not the same magnitude as the 2012 palm-to-white-gloved-palm between Martin McGuinness and the Queen, Charles, the Prince of Wales, and former IRA bomber and Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly shook right mitts in Belfast.
  • This headline over a Derek Scally column in The Irish Times put a modern spin on an historic phrase: German’s difficulty could be Ireland’s opportunity.
  • For the second time in as many months, Irish Ferries was forced to cancel thousands of bookings as it postponed the inaugural sailing of the WB Yeats at least until September.
  • In case you are wondering: The impasse over restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly has reached 18 months, and debate also continues on the post-Brexit fate of the border between the North and the Republic.
  • Why both matter: Northern Ireland sends almost double the amount of trade to the Republic that it receives in return, according to a Cross-Border Supply Chain survey the by Northern Ireland Statistical & Research Agency and the Department for the Economy. (Click graphic to see more detail.)

Obama and Biden quote Irish poets

President Barack Obama cited W. B. Yeats in his surprise 12 January presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden.

” ‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends,’ ” Obama quoted from The Municipal Gallery Revisited.

In is acceptance, Biden used a line from Seamus Heaney’s From the Republic of Conscience:  “You carried your own burdens, and very soon, the creeping symptoms of privilege disappeared.”

Read the White House transcript, or watch the presentation:

‘Easter, 1916’ quietly reaches its 100th anniversary

Another milestone of the 1916 Easter Rising centennial arrives 25 September. That’s the date W. B. Yeats jotted at the bottom of his draft notes for the poem “Easter, 1916.”

wbyeats.jpg (286×289)In May 1916, as 15 Irish rebels faced British firing squads, Yeats hinted at the poem’s most famous line in a letter to his Abbey Theatre co-founder Lady Gregory: “I am trying to write a poem on the men executed—’terrible beauty has been born’.”

The poem was not published until 23 October, 1920, when it appeared in the New Statesman, launched in 1913 to give voice to the unrest of the period. In 1921, “Easter, 1916” was included in Yeats’ Michael Robartes and the Dancer.

The completion date of “Easter, 1916” is unremarked in the official centennial programs of the Irish government and the National Library of Ireland. It is noted on the 1916 timeline of the Decade of Centenaries website.

Read the full poem.

Guest post: From 57th Yeats International Summer School

I’m always happy to publish a guest post from people visiting or just returned from Ireland. I met Michael Whelan at an Irish Network-DC event earlier this year. His writing on Ireland has appeared in Irish Central and éirways magazine. His latest poetry collection is After God, an Irish Catholic American memoir available on Amazon. He sent this correspondence from Sligo. MH.

***

“Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild … “

So wrote W. B. Yeats in Stolen Child in the voice of the fairies luring a little one to swap him with their farie changeling. So came we under mythic Benbulbin mountain, close to Yeats’ grave, to the very waterfall of Glencar made iconic by his beloved poem. It is first stop of the first day at the Yeats International  Summer School, 2016.

I am among the 50 here from some dozen countries to delve deep into the world of Yeats. We range from newly graduated English majors to doctoral students and university-level teachers of literature to just plain souls who read Yeats for the fun or the challenge of it. Mostly everyone here is a poet, to some degree, as am I.

Mornings at the Hawks Well theater are spent listening to world experts lecture on Yeats from every conceivable angle. This year, much attention is focused on his Easter, 1916, given the 100th anniversary of the Dublin uprising and Yeats’ conflicts with the poem. Much is fascinating, too, in the talks and illustrations on Yeats’ surreal dimension in approach to theater.

Four charcoal renderings of Yeats. Photos of women below him are the wives of leaders executed after the 1916 Rising.

Four charcoal renderings of Yeats. Photos of women below him are the wives of leaders executed after the 1916 Rising.

Afternoons are for seminars, held at the Victorian-style Yeats Society building in the center of Sligo City. You choose a topic for a week. Mine is Yeats & Heaney, a compelling class led by Dr. Rand Brandes, of Lenoir-Rhyne University. He is rich with remarkable anecdotes from his 30 years working closely with Seamus Heaney. We uncover revealing parallels and telling differences between the two poets. I come away with a sharpened eye such that I won’t read Yeats or Heaney again without drawing from the class.

Another amazing experience in awaking the creative imagination comes in an intensive two-day poetry workshop by Vona Groarke, editor of the Poetry Ireland Review.

It’s not just what happens in class that makes the summer school experience.  It’s the everywhere-around spell of Yeats that still hypnotizes all of Sligo. Here everything is just around the corner from everything else — creating the feel you are walking the buzzing streets as in a stage set for the likes of Yeats theater, the wild river rushing under the bridge next to the Yeats Society building and the sky flipping theatrically, constantly–Irishly–between showers and sunny spots.

Summer School participants visit grave of Yeats in Drumcliff churchyard, at foot of Benbulbin mountain.

Summer School participants visit grave of Yeats in Drumcliff churchyard, at foot of Benbulbin mountain.