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Literary lights in Ireland


I recently returned from a week in Ireland, mostly in Dublin – my first visit. One of the many things I love about Dublin is its very public homage to literary figures — Wilde, Joyce, Yeats, Behan and many more. I went on a literary pub crawl one night, a tourist-y but worthwhile event in which a small group went from pub to pub, led by two gifted professional actors who performed choice bits from the writings of Wilde, Beckett, Behan, Joyce and Eavan Boland. (The only other place I’ve been that honors writers so openly is Russia, where statues of writers abound in Moscow and St. Petersburg.) Dublin is large enough to be sophisticated and diverse, but not big enough to be intimidating, and I found Dubliners to be unfailingly polite, friendly and helpful, despite being overrun by 7 million tourists a year. A different facet of the city is that the dark side of the history of Ireland, its famines and oppression, is not forgotten in the midst of modernity. In Dublin Castle I stood in the room where James Connolly, commandant of the Dublin Brigade in the Easter 1916 uprising against the British, was brought to lie badly wounded, with a bullet in his leg. Soon after, he was carried on a stretcher to Kilmainham Gaol courtyard, tied to a chair and executed by firing squad. He was 47. John Lennon said that his song “Woman Is The Nigger of the World” was inspired by Connolly’s quotation “The female is the slave of the slave.”
Above is the famous, somewhat peculiar statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Here is a poem by Eavan Boland.


Here is the city —
its worn-down mountains,
its grass and iron,
its smoky coast
seen from the high roads
on the Wicklow side.

From Dalkey Island
to the North Wall,
to the blue distance seizing its perimeter,
its old divisions are deep within it.

And in me also.
And always will be.

Out of my mouth they come:
The spurred and booted garrisons.
The men and women
they dispossessed.

What is a colony
if not the brutal truth
that when we speak
the graves open.

And the dead walk?