A couple of weeks ago, I attended a gathering of the Walnut Street Poetry Society, where the topic was the poetry of William Butler Yeats, led by my good friend Kathleen.
The discussion came round to the Easter Rising, where the Irish heroes lost the battle and were executed, but actually won the war 5 years later, though dead. I had to admit that I could pass the test on Irish history up until the defeat of 1798, but had never been able to go further.
So wouldn’t you know – I’ve been face to face with the Easter Rebellion almost continuously since. Emails from friends, forwarded articles – and at the Celtic Festival a couple of weeks ago, our space was next to the space of Cathal Liam, Galway born, who has written 2 books on Irish history – which I’ve almost bought several times at Joseph-Beth. One of them is about the 1916 Rebellion (Consumed in Freedom’s Flame), the other about the Irish civil war that followed freedom in 1921 (Blood on the Shamrock).
Now I have them inscribed by the author. I’m backing into the history by reading his third book first – Forever Green, Ireland Now and Again. It’s a collection of essays and articles, with some history.
Yates immortalized the heroes in one of his best known poems. With their sacrifice ‘a terrible beauty was born’ that led finally to a free Ireland after 700 years. I know I’ll learn more about that beauty than I have been able to face before. Ready or not, here I come.