Saturday, 2 April 2016


 '...some new script made from the old.'

Today ends my week long posting about the poetry of the Easter Rising. The Rising ended on the Saturday, six days after it began.  After the GPO was almost completely destroyed by British artillery and the rebel garrison within had to retreat to neighbouring Moore Street, Pearse agreed to surrender unconditionally to prevent further civilian casualties. A few weeks after, sixteen rebel leaders, including the seven signatories and Sir Roger Casement (who helped organise the arms from Germany) were executed and thousands imprisoned.. 

These 'sixteen dead men' that Yeats speaks of here were to turn the fate of Irish history. The executions changed public opinion drastically. Suddenly, the country was ablaze with respect for these men who had sacrificed their lives heroically and a new zeal of revolutionary nationalism was born. Things would never be the same again, 'the boiling pot', as Yeats called it, was stirring. 

The second poem here is by contemporary Iish poet Theo Dorgan, commissioned especially for the Centenary commemorations. It can be found inscribed beneath the Children of Lir statue (pictured) in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, a space that honours all those who died in Ireland's independence struggle. (The Children of Lir is an old Irish legend about children who were turned into swans by their stepmother.) The poem speaks for itself quietly but profoundly.


Sixteen Dead Men - WB Yeats

O but we talked at large before
The sixteen men were shot,
But who can talk of give and take,
What should be and what not
While those dead men are loitering there
To stir the boiling pot?

You say that we should still the land
Till Germany’s overcome;
But who is there to argue that
Now Pearse is deaf and dumb?
And is their logic to outweigh
MacDonagh’s bony thumb?

How could you dream they’d listen
That have an ear alone
For those new comrades they have found,
Lord Edward and Wolfe Tone,
Or meddle with our give and take
That converse bone to bone?

Remembrance -Theo Dorgan

To escape the pull of memory
as difficult as for a swan
with wings of bronze
to lift over silent water
and gain the sky.
Somehow the thing is done,
gravity cancelled by force
of art, by will,
and the swan soars.
These braids of air
spiralling from each wingtip,
how else to read them but
as lines drawn up from clay,
some new script made from the old.

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