On Tuesday we found ourselves at Lissadell House, the ancestral home of the Gore-Booth family, six years after we first visited it and Co. Sligo. Back then we went to see and hear Leonard Cohen; this time the house itself – famous for its connection with Constance Markievicz (née Gore-Booth) and W.B. Yeats – was the attraction. We looked out at the rain through the windows of which Yeats wrote (and Cohen recited):
The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
(from ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz’)
There’s an extensive and excellent Easter 1916 exhibition in Lissadell at present, including a lot of Markievicz paraphernalia. There is also a wealth of material related to Yeats and his brother, the prolific painter Jack B. Yeats. Continue reading
A poem that Michael Hartnett wrote for his daughter, Lara, when she was ten years old.
An ash-tree on fire
the hair of your head
with your sweet voice
in the green grass,
a crowd of daisies
playing with you
a crowd of rabbits
dancing with you
with its gold bill
is a jewel for you
with its sweetness
is your music.
You are perfume,
you are honey, a wild strawberry:
even the bees think you
a flower in the field.
Little queen of the land of books,
may you always be thus
may you ever be free
Here’s my blessing for you, girl,
and it is no petty grace –
may you have the beauty of your mother’s soul
and the beauty of her face.
I’ve written a bit about Patrick MacGill on this blog before, and given extracts from his work: Patrick MacGill and the Red Horizon and The Women of France. In the centenary year of the start of the First World War, it’s worth considering the experience of the ordinary men who took part (which was brought home to me on a visit to Arras last November). A facet of this is captured well in the following extract, set on a troop-ship crossing to France, from MacGill’s autobiographical novel The Red Horizon.
Today is Pi Day, apparently. In honour of the occasion I have written a piku: instructions given here.
Can I form
A verse extolling in supple words pi’s weird, redolent,
Enigmatic quality? Certainly, but it may collapse.
Most of the material I edit, proofread or index doesn’t hold much intrinsic interest for me, frankly. Sometimes, though, I get to work on a book that really appeals to me. Lately I had this experience when I compiled an index for a book on Carl Jung and the medieval mystics who inspired him, and a couple of years ago I enjoyed indexing A.J. McGrath’s The Dark Ground of Spirit: Schelling and the Unconscious.
One passage of McGrath’s, referring to Jacob Boehme, expressed something that has often occurred to me: that we can’t be, and shouldn’t try to be, utterly selfless, caring only about others:
Boehme’s psychological point is simple enough to state: there is no alterity without ipseity, no self-donation without a latent self-assertion. This is not to say that love is selfish: self-assertion without self-donation is the essence of evil. But without the seed of selfishness, held in potency, not actualized, there would be no self to be overcome and given away. Continue reading
I’ve written and published a novel aimed at children and teenagers, which so far has had high praise from its young readers! It’s available in paperback and ebook formats. Please check it out here …
Or, in the USA and for the ebook version, here.
It’s a beautiful sunny day here in rural Ireland. My wife and daughter are in Italy, as I mentioned to Cymbeline; my son and his girlfriend are still in bed. I have not yet had breakfast but have almost finished a pot of coffee.
There are various things I could be doing. I need to finish editing a paper on schizophrenia. I need to rebuild part of a dry-stone wall that has collapsed. I must walk the dogs at some point. Later I shall watch Munster v. Toulon and Saracens v. Leinster – the Heineken Cup, important stuff.
I had intended to post an extract from Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman, but the text does not appear to be available online, and typing it out laboriously does not appeal to me just now, although I have done this with extracts from other books, including Ernie O’Malley’s. Continue reading
This is another extract from On Another Man’s Wound, by Ernie O’Malley. I posted one here; a post dealing with similar themes appears here. This incident – the execution of three British officers in reprisal for the killing of prisoners – occurred in the same part of South Tipperary as this and this.
We walked into the closing-in darkness, riflemen in front and behind the trap, until we were at a distance from where the officers had been captured. I expected a big round-up in which the countryside would be combed by troops from Cahir and Clonmel – both strong military posts. They would probably converge in the triangular area of which Fethard was the apex.
We came to a farmhouse up in the fields some way off the main Clonmel road. Sentries were posted. The girls and women of the house got ready supper; they did not ask questions. A fire was lighted in the room where the officers were. After supper I went into the room. The blinds were drawn so that they could not look out. It was a large room. They were seated at a table. One had his head in his hands. Continue reading
This is an extract from Patrick MacGill’s First World War memoir, The Red Horizon.
“… Oh! ‘ang it, Pat, they’re nothin’ to the French girls, them birds at ’ome.”
“What about that girl you knew at St. Albans?” I asked. “You remember how she slid down the banisters and made toffee.”
“She wasn’t no class, you know,” said Bill.
“She never answered the verse you sent from Givenchy, I suppose,” I remarked.
“It’s not that—-”
“Did she answer your letter saying she reciprocated your sentiments?” I asked.
“Reshiperate your grandmother, Pat!” roared Bill. “Nark that language, I say. Speak that I can understand you. Wait a minute till I reshiperate that,” he suddenly exclaimed pressing a charge into his rifle magazine and curving over the parapet. He sent five shots in the direction from which he supposed the sniper who had been potting at us all day, was firing. Then he returned to his argument.
“You’ve seen that bird at the farm in Mazingarbe?” he asked. Continue reading
[First posted on MyT]
Patrick MacGill is the only person I know of who wrote books about life as an ordinary working-class British Army soldier in the First World War trenches (there may have been others).
MacGill was born in Glenties, Co. Donegal, Ireland, in 1891 … the first of eleven children of a small farmer. He left school the age of ten, and two years later was hired out as a labourer in a neighbouring county. At fourteen he went to Scotland to pick potatoes, and he later lived the hard life of an itinerant navvy, working on the railways and other big civil engineering projects. All the time he was educating himself by reading Tolstoy, Gogol, Zola and Hugo, as well as Kipling. Continue reading