at a poetry reading i attended last night, part recitation and part analysis of an epic irish lament upon the untimely death of a loved one, the presenter in talking about the irish character noted a time when winston churchill, during WWII, made a remark to the effect that the situation is serious, but not yet desparate. to which an irish observer responded, the situation in ireland has always been desperate, but not yet serious.
when i was young and stupid, i used to dismiss the irish as a bunch of barbarians, engaged in endless internecine warfare. only after i took the trouble to learn much more about irish/celtic history, of which the troubles with england are only the most recent manifestation, did i realize what a rich and wondrous civilization i'd been missing out on. more fool i. now i'm wishing i had the time and means to become part of the irish studies program at the university, in addition to reading and thinking i've done on my own. a hearty reading recommendation: any historical fiction by morgan llywellyn, most especially her four books dubbed "the irish century" -- titled respectively 1916, 1921, 1949, and 1972. those books, together with frank delaney's Ireland, form an entertaining and hugely informative introduction to the old sod, the emerald isle, eire.
it's a pity that st. patrick's day in this country dwells only upon stereotypes of heavy drinking and rabble-rousing. ireland is peopled with natural poets, scholars, dreamers, philosophers, writers, musicians, all of whom have enriched our lives in myriad ways. and yes, a number of whom have lifted a pint or two, but that's hardly a definitive trait. i love listening to celtic harp, to irish bands, to the music of the language itself. irish gaelic has lilts and rhythms all its own.
so here's to the good folks of the north and the south, may their troubles be lifted (out the british!!!), and the sun shine on their souls.