Liam De Paor, Landscapes with Figures (Dublin: Four Courts 1998), 240pp.

CONTENTS: Ireland and the British Empire; Before the American Century; The World of Brian Merriman: County Clare in 1780; The Voice of Tone; Tom Moore and Modern Ireland [68-80]; The Hag and the Queen’ Sive Oultach’s Children; Finn and the Fairies; The Melancholy of Coole; Retreats from the Modern; Vanishing Space; The Great War; A Terrible Beauty is Born; A Matter of History; The Battle of the Somme; The Ambiguity of the Republic; The Ebb of Irish; Bloody Sunday; Peace in Our Time; The People’s Choice; The Voice of Bigotry; Eggs and Omelettes; The Future of the Past; The Dilemmas of Conservation; The Artificial State; Cars and Culture; A German Boom City; The Archaeology of a Poem: Heaney’s “Seeing Things” [210-16]; Irish America; Some Ulster Protestants; The End of the Wall; An American Lineage: The Fishes of Garrison; New World Orders. [‘aspects of that modern world both within and woutout Ireland’, Pref. p.9.

Tom Moore and Modern Ireland, pp.68-80; given at 4th annual O Riada Memorial Lecture, Cork; publ. By Irish Traditional Music Soc., 1989 as ‘Tom Moore and Contemporary Ireland’; present version partly based on BBC3 talk on ‘Tom Moore and Irish Nationalism’, Listener 11 April 1974.

‘Two fairly abrupt shifts have taken place in comparatively recent history in Ireland … The first such shift was accomplished just before the Famine, and clinched by that dreadful episode. It involved the change from the old Gaelic system which was medieval and in some respects prehistoric in its character to a traditional system which was recognisably early modern. The old Ireland to which we in our time can look back, now across a gulf, was a century and a half ago a new wrought Ireland – the Ireland of, for example, late marriages, the Ireland also of intensive anglicisation [69], of religious puritanism, and to a large extent of social aspiration combined with demoralisation. The second great shift was accomplished round about 1950, when that “old Ireland” began to disappear into history, as the gombeen man yielded place to the whizz kid.’ (p.69-70.)

It is Cicero, I believe, who says ‘Natura ad modos ducimur’; and the abundance of wild indigenous airs which almost every country except England possesses, sufficiently proves the truth of this assertion. The lovers of this simple but interesting kind of music are here presented with the first number of a collection, which I trust their contributions will enable us to continue. A pretty air without words resembles one of those half creatures of Plato, which are described as wandering, in search of the remainder of themselves, through the world. To supply this other half, by uniting with congenial words the many fugitive melodies which have hitherto had none, or only such as are unintelligible to the generality of their hearers, is the object and ambition of the present work. Neither is it our intention to confine ourselves to what are strictly called National Melodies; but wherever we meet with any wandering or beautiful air, to which poetry has not yet assigned a worthy hom, we shall venture to claim it as an estray swan, and enrich our humble Hippocrene with its song.’ (Introduction to National Airs, 1819; de Paor, p.72.)

Quotes ‘Oh blame not the bard .. patriot’s heart (here p.71); also ‘But, alas for his country! … their country expires’ (here p.73);

Moore’s gift was that he did in fact represent the sentiment, if not of Ireland at least of Irish respectability – the English-speaking aspirant middle-class coming up in the world. He was nothing so dangerous as a revolutionary or rebel but he gave an acceptable voice to expression of carefully modified regret at the suppression of Irish independence, and in the sentimental embroidery which he devised for this regret he contributed greatly to the making of the new nationalist myth. He greatly helped to reconcile Ireland to a slow modernisation by glorifying the past while making the changes to the present seem to be of the order of nature. (p.74.)

Sylvester O’Halloran: ‘Having a natural reverence for the dignity and antiquity of my native country, strengthened by education, and confirmed by an intimate knowledge of its history, I could not, without the greatest pain and indignation, behold on the one hand, almost all the writers of England and Scotland (and from them of other parts of Europe) representing the Irish nationa as the most brutal and savage of mankind, destitute of arts, letters and legislation; and on the other hand the extreme passiveness and insensibility of the present race of Irish: instances of inattention to their own honour, unexampled in any other civilised nation.’ (1772; cited in de Paor, p.77.)

O’Connell organised public dinner for Moore, 8 June 1818; at the preliminary meeting he said that ‘there could not live a single Irishman so lost to feeling of affection for his country, as not to feel pride and pleasure at hearing the name of Moore.’ Further: ‘It [is] a name that raised the fame of Irish talent, and place[s] the poetic character of his country on the highest pinnacle of literary glory.’ (de Paor, p.79.)

The pseudo-tradition, or intermediate Irish tradition, gradually lost vigour and credibility. The great changes since the Second World War have seen its virtual disappearance, and I doubt if there have been many gatherings round the piano in recent years (except occasionally in a spirit of camp) to sing the “Melodies”. (p.80.)

Pearse’s language and imagery did not in fact represent the republican nationalist tradition, but were borrowed from the language and imagery of the imperial tradition of the day. It appealed to other republicans, because one of their tactics was to turn the ideological weapons of the imperialists back on themselves. Pearse could speak the language of the enemy: this was one of the reasons he was chosen, not so long before 1916, by those who planned the revolution, to be a spokesman and leader. The same qualities which appealed to them and suggested him as a suitable figurehead are the qualities which have made him, par excellence, the representative and symbol of the Rising: his rhetoric of resurrection after blood sacrifice became for a long time the received version of what the Rising was. But this was, to a large extent, the rhetoric and imagery of the Great War, of which, in one aspect, the Easter Rising was a minor but significant episode. (p.146.)

‘The last sixteen months have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth. On whichever side the men who rule the peoples have marshalled them, whether with England to uphold her tyranny of the seas, or with Germany to break that tyranny, the people themselves have gone into battle because to each the old voice that speaks of the soil of a nation has spoken anew. It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needs to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives gladly given for love of country.’ (Cited in De Paor, p.147; notes that Connolly characterised these words as ‘blithering idiocy’ in his paper.)

The Archaeology of a Poem: Heaney’s “Seeing Things” [210-16; prev. in The Recorder, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 1996.

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