Friday, January 14, 2005

I'm Feeling Very Irish Today

As I sat around loafing this morning I noticed a book I’d read about a year or so ago. It was Thomas Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization.”

Cahill’s thesis is that when Rome fell and Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages, it was the Irish monks, particularly Patrick, who preserved the great works that civilization had produced until Rome fell. With that fall much of the learning that had been meticulously preserved over centuries was almost lost. It was the Irish, Cahill claims, who saved the day. Hyperbole? Blarney? Perhaps. But I’m Irish and I’m accepting Cahill’s word as is.

Now why I’d feel so Irish today escapes me. It’s not a particularly Irish type of day. It’s bitterly cold here in Emporia and everything here is still iced over from the storm we had last week. There are trees and limbs down everywhere. Maybe it’s just that I’m ready for winter to be over, even though it’s barely begun.

Well, as I sat and browsed through Cahill’s book my mind wandered back to a vacation Nancy and I took to Ireland several years ago. In my mind’s eye I can still see us sitting at Bewley’s in Dublin having tea. I can remember an evening in Doolin listening to traditional Irish music at a pub overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I’ll never forget that scene. The band was composed of a one legged man who played guitar and a tall, slender young woman who played flute and smoked at the same time. The sight of cigarette smoke wafting its way through the openings in the flute along with the traditional Irish melodies was something to behold. They even had a “groupie,” a toothless man who appeared to be in his seventies, who just sat next to them and admired their work, a pint of Guiness in his hand at all times.

I sit here now looking out at the cold, hoping for spring to come. For me March 17th is that date – St. Patrick’s Day. Here in Emporia we even have a parade. To be honest, the word “parade” is a bit of an over-reach. On March 17th what Emporians will see is about four or five pickup trucks decorated in Kelly-green crepe paper cruising their way down Commercial Street. That’s St. Patrick’s Day here in Emporia.

Enough of the blarney though. I read through some of Cahill’s book once more and came across a poem that he attributed to a one of Patrick’s converts, a man named St. Manchan of Offaly. While it doesn’t, to my knowledge have an official title, Cahill calls it “The Hermit’s Song.” The “song” speaks to the simplicity of the monastic life and to the Irish life as well. It follows now for your edification:

“Grant me sweet Christ the grace to find –
Son of the living God! –
A small hut in a lonesome spot
To make it my abode.

A little pool but very clear
To stand beside the place
Where all men’s sins are washed away
By sanctifying grace.

Pleasant woodland all about
To shield it from the wind,
And make a home for singing birds
Before it and behind.

A southern aspect for the heat
A stream along its foot
A smooth green lawn with rich top soil
Propitious to all fruit.

My choice of men to live with me
And pray to God as well;
Quiet men of humble mind –
Their number I shall tell.

Four files of three or three of four
To give the psalter forth;
Six to pray by the south church wall
And six along the north.

Two by two my dozen friends –
To tell the number right –
Praying with me to move the King
Who gives the sun its light.

A lovely church, a home for God
Bedecked with linen fine,
Where over the white Gospel page
The Gospel candles shine.

A little house where all may dwell
And body’s care be sought,
Where none shows lust or arrogance,
None thinks an evil thought.

And all I ask for housekeeping
I get and pay no fees,
Leeks from the garden, poultry, game,
Salmon, trout and bees.

My share of clothing and of food
From the King of fairest face,
And I to sit at times alone
And pray in every place.”

I’m feeling very Irish right now. I’m thankful for those small blessing in life, the ones that, small as they seem to be, fill the heart.

Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

Fence said...

Wierd, have surfed to two bog explosion sites and both were discussing trips to Ireland.

Have you heard that Bewley's has closed? There is still talk here of trying to get this "dublin instituion" reopened but money talks louder than tradition.