Wednesday, November 29, 2006



Not sure I quite get the point of this but OK.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


In Memory of my Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday -
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle - '
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life -
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us - eternally.

Friday, November 24, 2006



I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided; who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting 'Damn your soul'
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel -
'Here is the march along these iron stones'
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


On Raglan Road

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.



As it turns out, it's Patrick Kavanagh Weekend up in Iniskeen, Co Monaghan this weekend! And since Kavangh is my favourite poetry-man I may as well share a few of his verses with anyone out there who hasn't had the pleasure. Coming up.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Reading material

This Harpers article in the right-wing "back-stab" myth in American politics has been on my "to read" list for some time. Well, I read it and it's...very good. Very, very good.

The following passage;

Vietnam, for the right, would come to be defined mainly through a series of closely related, culturally explosive totems. The protesters and the counterculture would be reduced to the single person of Jane Fonda, embalmed forever on a clip of film, traipsing around a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun.

reminded me of another Very Good article with similar themes. As someone who thought he had no interest at all in Jane Fonda I was rather surprised to be so intrigued by a review of her biography. Rick Perlstein starts off by claming that "You don’t know America if you don’t know the Jane Fonda cult. Or rather, the anti-Fonda cult. "

Well, now you're not at a loss for things to read anyway.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Yglesias on democracy

Having embarked upon Aristotle's Politics, these remarks seem relevant to the critique of representative democracy in general, and not just to its American variety:

the striking thing about American democracy is how little impact public sentiment actually has on the course of things. The way democracy works, in essence, is that the voters get to choose between two teams of competing elites. Thus, public opinion serves as a tie-breaker on issues where the elite is seriously divided.



There's a huge amount of great stuff at this site. In particular, although it's pretty well known, Martin Luther King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech on the eve of his death is astonishing. So also, in a different way, is his 1967 speech, "A Time to Break Silence", which comes with a strangely subdued delivery but amounts to an impressively radical and, as I see it, remarkably accurate historical and moral analysis of the Vietnam war.

Here's Eisenhower's farewell address containing his warning about the military-industrial complex. And check out the eery atmosphere of MacArthur's "Duty, Honour, Country" speech at West Point.

On a lighter note, there's Nixon's hilarious "Checkers" speech.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Orwell blah blah blah

Oh me oh my but this is a good one.

Friday, November 03, 2006



I wouldn't be as keen about either of them as Norm is, but via him this CNN bit with Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens is enjoyable.

Update: Woops, links. Here and there.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Episodes in the strange attitude of the Irish Republic to its official first language

On December 14th 1921 the underground revolutionary Parliament of the Irish Republic (Dáil Éireann, phonetically Dawl Air-in) met to debate the Anglo-Irish Treaty that was, with its ratification, to become the founding document of the independent Irish state. It was also the basis of the division that led, by the middle of 1922, to a relatively brief and small-scale, but, unsurprisingly, bitter and consequential, civil war.

Opening the debate, then President of the Dail government and an iconic figure in Irish politics from 1916 until his retirement as head of state in 1973, Eamon de Valera started off in Irish:

Tá fhios againn go léir cad é an fáth go bhfuilimíd anso iniu agus an cheist mhór atá againn le socrú. Níl mo chuid Gaedhilge chó maith agus ba mhaith liom í bheith. Is fearr is féidir liom mo smaointe do nochtadh as Beurla, agus dá bhrí sin is dóich liom gurbh fhearra dhom labhairt as Beurla ar fad.

But then switched to English:

Some of the members do not know Irish, I think, and consequently what I shall say will be in English.

My Irish is poor enough, but I can translate the first bit roughly:

We all know why we're here today and the great question that is before us. My Irish is not as good as I would like it to be. I would prefer it if I could put across my thoughts in English and I hope for the same reason that everyone will speak in English throughout the debate. [italics added]

So in Irish it's "I'll speak English because I can't Irish well enough", in English it's "I'll speak English because these fools won't understand me in Irish". You chancer Dev!

Another story, heard on the radio this evening: Dev is conducting a cabinet meeting some time in the thirties or forties - in Irish. In Irish, that is, until near the end when de Valera breaks into English and says: "Given its importance, we shall discuss the next item in English."

It's doubtful whether Dev's reputation will ever recover from Alan Rickman's brilliant rendition in the film Michael Collins. The first incident doesn't exactly disabuse one of the notion that there was indeed something rather slippery, a touch of the cute hoor about "The Long Fellow" - the joke about whom apparently went that, unlike many other independence leaders, there had never been a street named after him because "they couldn't find a street long enough, narrow enough and crooked enough to fit de Valera".

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