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Donkin's World: Poetry, Drink And A Row In The Town

A visit to Dublin inspired Richard Donkin to write a poem.

A few of us spent the weekend in Ireland, over for the rugby international in what has become a biennial ritual not unlike one of those holy days when fanatics engage in a purging of the flesh, the only difference being that the thrashing was handed out by the Irish to an English team that looked anything but grand in the way it was slammed.

The rest of us were slammed in a manner that seems difficult to avoid on a weekend in Dublin when the combination of Guinness, bars and doors that have the habit of opening when you push them, ensure that the Euro/Guinness exchange rate is raised to unsustainable levels.

In recognition of this risk we usually try to arrange a cultural element designed to keep us out of the pubs for an hour or two. To its credit The 1916 Rebel Tour http://www.1916rising.com/index.html avoided too great a shock to the system by starting and finishing in a pub, The International Bar on Wicklow Street.

Lorcan Collins who has been running these tours since 1996 and who has co-authored a book on the Easter Rising of 1916, certainly knows his stuff but he did get a bit touchy when one of the party - not one of us - seemed to be trying to out-guide him, so he reimbursed her and chucked her off, a pity since, had she endured, we might have seen a re-enactment of the Irish civil war which would have added to the entertainment.

Whichever way you look at it, the Easter Rising was a tragedy, but, as Lorcan was at pains to explain, it was almost as if some of its members were resigned to failure from the off. Patrick Pearse, who led the rebellion, spoke of a "blood sacrifice" that he believed was necessary to create momentum for change.

As it was, thousands of Irishmen were serving soldiers in the British Army at a time that the British were building their forces ahead of the Somme offensive on July 1, 1916. The so-called "separation" payments made to the wives of serving Irish soldiers were the only means that many had of feeding their families. Little wonder then, that the insurrection was initially unpopular. It was only when the British began executing the ringleaders that public sympathy shifted towards the rebel cause.

A few themes recurred during the weekend, namely the Irish talent for tragedy and sacrifice, combined with a love of lyricism, poetry and song (usually about all the tragedy and sacrifice), and underpinned by religious belief, a prodigious memory for historical grievance, enjoyment of drink and an appetite for a good scrap. The latter was demonstrated only too painfully among England's grand slam hopefuls who were well and truly hammered.

These were only the immediate themes. As enjoyable as we made the weekend, in spite of England's failure, there was the regular intervention of news bulletins reminding us of an insurrection for our times, in Lybia. Supporters of the revolution were demonstrating in the street right outside Dublin's General Post Office, headquarters of the Easter Rising of 95 years ago.

Anyway the upshot of all this is that I was inspired to write a poem. It's not Yeats (and not the first poem I've featured in the blog http://donkinlife.blogspot.com/search?q=snooker) but it does try to pull together some of the things we learned - apart from the rugby. That was just too horrible for words. It's called.......

Easter Rising

Many have forgiven,
But some they never will
The putteed boys in slouch hats
And Mausers in the drill,
Old ledgers piled in naked frames
Slit sunshine slicing through,
Its clouded shafts bereft of hope,
Warming the morning dew.

Many have forgiven,
But some they never will,
The limbered guns and sniper rounds,
Lodged in an angelís breast,
They flew the green a full six days,
From Irelandís supreme hour,
When lancers, skittled from their mounts,
Sprawled on the cobbled ground.

Many have forgiven,
But some they never will,
The hobnailed march to prison yard,
Guns shouldered for the kill,
Where Connolly condemned in pain,
Hauled from a tended bed,
Sagged his rope-bound bandaged chest,
Trussed in a wooden chair.

Many have forgotten,
But some they never will,
The khakied ranks in poppied fields
Raked in the whistled dawn
Torn in bloodied, serried rows,
A wifeís sad separation,
The soldierís life in silver coins,
Chiseled name in a chalk field.

Many have forgiven,
But some they never will,
A cleansing of the Roman hands
The flailing and the thorns,
The sweating path, the arid hill,
Hammered flesh on timber,
The shadow of an ancient cross,
Before the Easter rising.


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