Cover to Cover with Jack Foley

Cover to Cover with Jack Foley – April 27, 2016

APRIL 27

 

EASTER 1916—PART TWO

 

Today’s show features more tracks from the new CD Blood on the Rose / Fuil ar an Rós, available at the website everlastingvoices.ie. James Joyce, who did not support the rebellion but who had a friend who died in it, wrote in “The Dead,” “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” Colm Tóibín suggests that “it was this idea [though not Joyce’s formulation of it]…that would animate Pádraig Pearse and his followers in the years leading up to the 1916 Rebellion.” Pearse connected this idea with the great legendary Irish hero, Cúchulainn as well as with the Irish nationalist, Robert Emmett, who had been executed by the British for high treason in 1803.

 

“By the time they sat in their prison cells in the early hours of 3 May 1916 awaiting execution,” Tóibín goes on, “it was clear that [the rebels] had divided public opinion in Britain and Ireland in a way that would come to matter. They appeared to the British as supremely treacherous. They had stabbed the country in the back during a time of war, causing immense destruction to life and property. They had made clear their willingness to treat openly with the enemy against whom so many Irishmen had volunteered to fight and in a war in which so many were still dying. (In the week of the rebellion, to take just one example, 570 men from the 16th Irish Division were killed at Hulluch on the Western Front.) ‘I admit having opened negotiations with Germany,’ Pearse said in his court-martial statement. ‘We have kept our word with her and as far as I can see she did her best to help us. She sent a ship with men.’ It was hard to imagine, if viewed from the British side, what else could have been done with the leaders of the rebellion. It must have seemed not only natural, but just and right, to shoot them.

 

“But the rebels appeared to the Irish side in a totally different light. The stark divergence in this after-image – the creation of a deep fissure between Britain and Ireland – was perhaps the rebels’ real achievement…

 

“All the families gave accounts of the last hours of the rebels. They made sure to emphasise that their loved ones, including the Marxist James Connolly, had seen priests before they were shot. They also included as much sad detail as they could. ‘I had to stand there at the cell door,’ Kathleen Clarke wrote, ‘while the soldier locked the door of what seemed to be my husband’s tomb. How I held myself together, with my head up, I do not know. I must have been turned to stone … but the sound of that key in that lock has haunted me ever since.’”

 

This is Pádraig Pearse’s poem, “Renunciation,” written by Pearse in Irish. The translation is Pearse’s own:

 

Fornocht do chonac thú,

a áille na háille,

is do dhallas mo shúil

ar eagla go stánfainn.

 

Do chualas do cheol,

a bhinne na binne,

is do dhúnas mo chluas

ar eagla go gclisfinn.

 

Do bhlaiseas do bhéal

a mhilse na milse,

is do chruas mo chroí

ar eagla mo mhillte.

 

Do dhallas mo shúil,

is mo chluas do dhúnas;

do chruas mo chroí,

is mo mhian do mhúchas.

 

Do thugas mo chúl

ar an aisling do chumas,

‘s ar an ród so romham

m’aghaidh do thugas.

 

Do thugas mo ghnúis

ar an ród so romham,

ar an ngníomh do-chim,

’s ar an mbás do gheobhad.

 

Naked I saw thee,

O beauty of beauty,

And I blinded my eyes

For fear I should stare.

 

I heard thy music,

O melody of melody,

And I closed my ears

For fear I should falter.

 

I tasted thy mouth,

O sweetness of sweetness,

And I hardened my heart

For fear of my weakening.

 

I blinded my eyes,

And I closed my ears,

I hardened my heart

And I smothered my desire.

 

I turned my back

On the vision I had shaped,

And to this road before me

I turned my face.

 

I have turned my face

To this road before me,

To the deed that I see

And the death I shall die.

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