Guest poem submitted by Dave Fortin:
(Poem #1362) Dublin
Grey brick upon brick, Declamatory bronze On sombre pedestals - O'Connell, Grattan, Moore - And the brewery tugs and the swans On the balustraded stream And the bare bones of a fanlight Over a hungry door And the air soft on the cheek And porter running from the taps With a head of yellow cream And Nelson on his pillar Watching his world collapse. This never was my town, I was not born or bred Nor schooled here and she will not Have me alive or dead But yet she holds my mind With her seedy elegance, With her gentle veils of rain And all her ghosts that walk And all that hide behind Her Georgian facades - The catcalls and the pain, The glamour of her squalor, The bravado of her talk. The lights jig in the river With a concertina movement And the sun comes up in the morning Like barley-sugar on the water And the mist on the Wicklow hills Is close, as close As the peasantry were to the landlord, As the Irish to the Anglo-Irish, As the killer is close one moment To the man he kills, Or as the moment itself Is close to the next moment. She is not an Irish town And she is not English, Historic with guns and vermin And the cold renown Of a fragment of Church latin, Of an oratorical phrase. But oh the days are soft, Soft enough to forget The lesson better learnt, The bullet on the wet Streets, the crooked deal, The steel behind the laugh, The Four Courts burnt. Fort of the Dane, Garrison of the Saxon, Augustan capital Of a Gaelic nation, Appropriating all The alien brought, You give me time for thought And by a juggler's trick You poise the toppling hour - O greyness run to flower, Grey stone, grey water, And brick upon grey brick.
A magnificent poem -- I like it not just for the close proximity that we, the readers, have to the poet's state of mind, but also for the historicity of the poem. Fans of The Dubliners will recognize the first few lines from their song romanticizing the blowing up of Nelson's statue on O'Connell Street in 1966 -- perhaps a broader statement on the decline of the British Empire in general. However, Dublin's own history as a Danish foundation, as the seat of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, as the setting for the events of 1919 and finally as the capitol of the newly founded Irish state is also celebrated -- though the last with MacNeice's unfailing sense of irony. The repetition of the phrase "grey brick upon brick" sets the historical events against an unmoving force to some extent -- the urbanization (and the poverty and dreariness that comes with it) of Ireland as exemplified in the grey bricks of Dublin is almost outside of the main historical events. Dave. [Minstrels Links] Poem #MacNeice - more poems by Louis MacNeice Poem #Yeats - poems by William Butler Yeats Poem #41 - "Ireland, Ireland", by Sir Henry Newbolt [Administrivia] Yesterday's commentary had an error in it: the Mary who succeeded Edward VI and preceded Elizabeth I was not Mary Queen of Scots, but rather Henry VIII's eldest child (and half-sister to Ned and Bess). The error was mine, not Christopher's; I added some glosses to his notes without checking my facts. Apologies to all, and especially to Christopher, for the goof. - t.