“…poetry, the opposite of propaganda, should encourage people to think and feel for themselves”

Pete mentions Michael Longley in one of his holiday period posts and that powerful thesis of his about what peace is and what it isn’t. For my money, Longley’s attempts at poetic legislation are among the most lasting and resonant.

The New Statesman has published his PEN Pinter Prize Lecture 2017 in which he makes important observations on the degree to which actual process of peacemaking compares to the more pliable and politically tractable Peace Process™️…

He notes…

…from the beginning my poet-friends and I resisted the temptation to hitch a ride on yesterday’s headlines, to write the poem of the latest atrocity. We learned from each other how complex the situation was, how inadequate the political certainties – Green Ireland, Orange Ulster. We knew there was no point in versifying opinion and giving people what they wanted to hear.

We believed that poetry, the opposite of propaganda, should encourage people to think and feel for themselves: it should appeal to their “generous instinct”, as MacNeice said in the violent 1930s. We hated what we came to call “Troubles trash”. We believed that, even when generated by the best of intentions, bad poetry about the sufferings of fellow citizens would be an impertinence; as part of an agenda it would be a blasphemy.

And…

Earlier I called the Northern Irish conflict “civil war” – a term others might contest. “Civil war” is a kind of oxymoron, since it combines an idea of community with an idea of its fracture. It throws into question, to quote Derek Mahon’s poem “Afterlives”, “what is meant by home”. Northern Ireland has only a million and a half inhabitants. So those who died in the Troubles are always in some sense intimately known, even across the divisions.

In 1999 four writers – David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton – compiled an extraordinary dossier of everybody who had been killed up to that date. This unbearably sad book is called Lost Lives. Reading over poems by myself and others, I realise that “lost lives” have always been at the centre of what we write: that the dominant genre of Troubles poetry is elegy – protest elegy, perhaps. To refer back to “All of These People”: “Our assassinated Catholic greengrocer” – I note I use the pronoun “our” – was Jim Gibson, murdered at Christmas by UDA gunmen who entered his shop on the Stranmillis Road and shot him because, I presume, he was a Catholic prospering in a predominantly Protestant area. My friend Sydney Callaghan, the Methodist minister in the poem, happened to be nearby, and was able to administer the Catholic Last Rites.

Although in balancing three poem dialogue between Hewitt, Heaney and Muldoon, he also notes:

Perhaps such open-heartedness, reflecting “generous instinct” elsewhere in the society, suggests why – despite the terrible violence – Ulster never quite descended into the nightmarish mayhem of Bosnia’s civil war. Poetic conversations continue to this day. When the Good Friday Agreement was painstakingly achieved I felt it had – as it needed to have – an almost poetic complexity.

To quote Heaney’s metaphor, the Agreement was about “the price of grass-seed”. In a poem of my own I called it “a fragment from some future unimagined sky”. You might say that today Northern Irish politics more often resemble bad prose. But the Peace Process is a process. It is far from over. It will take generations.

Aside from linking back to that 2003 interview, I’ll finish with the same extract from Alan Gillis poem called “Progress” as Longley himself:

They say that for years Belfast was backwards
And it’s great now to see some progress.
So I guess we can look forward to taking boxes
From the earth. I guess that ambulances
Will leave the dying back amidst the rubble
To be explosively healed. Given time,
One hundred thousand particles of glass
Will create impossible patterns in the air
Before coalescing into the clarity
Of a window. Through which a reassembled head
Will look out and admire the shy young man
Taking his bomb from the building and driving home.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “It will take generations” – I think that’s right. Maybe we hope for too much reconciliation too soon.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Well, be part of the change that you want to see and all that. Why not be part of the generation that will bring about accord? It will require you taking on the responsibility of change within yourself and that will be a sign of maturity albeit delayed.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Throughout the long period of contested politics in the north, since the 1880s, there have been people who have never ceased to see their fellow citizens as one community and have refused to surrender to the easy polarisation which permits self righteousness in championing one political camp against another part of our community.

    It was from the experience of seeing his Catholic neighbours burnt out in the Workman Clarke shipyard disturbances of 1912 that Theo Moody traced his own committment to a non-partisan historiography dedicated to exposing the myths of self justification with which both nationalist and Unionist public histories distort our past and deny us our commonality.

    I know some of the cross-community poets of Michael Longley’s generation and the rich harvest of the ongoing work their pupils, all of whom have pooled their cultural experience to create our contemporary literature. It has the mark of a cultural reality which links back to the greater generosity of this place before that fateful recourse to extremism on “Ulster Day”1912 committed Unionism to a position beyond reasonableness and political compromise, and set the pattern of our century long politics of rancour and recrimination.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    something not displayed in your post, Ben

  • Salmondnet

    Yep. A plea for sweet reason ending, as they pretty much always do, with a statement putting the blame on the other side. A great way to foster reconciliation as we all know.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    What do I need to change into: a dyed in the wool, self deceiving Unionist like you?
    Allow me to give you a few first easy steps. Take your pick;
    * lose the dogma
    * lose the fear
    * lose the delusions
    * stop rewriting NI’s history to fit your own agenda
    * acknowledge that Unionists were not victims only and weren’t the only victims
    * don’t misinterpret all and any challenges to your beliefs
    * don’t miscategorise people whose views differ from yours
    * accept that neutrality might be something you could gain something from
    * don’t over-react to others’ challenging your views
    * be more flexible, elastic, open minded – those ‘generous instincts’
    * recognise that intransigence is the problem among those that are the problem and look for it within yourself
    * Understand what a shared future actually is and become an agent for it

    * take a dose of reality salts

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you could start with some self-awareness Ben. You’re doing the exact opposite of what the piece is advocating.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The important thing is to honestly recognise that 1912 created a pattern which today we take for entirely granted. Public history, as opposed to professional history, generalises and politically selects its facts to support its limited aims. Blaming Unionism in 1912 for the inception of violence is not something I’ve made up. It is stated in virtually all of the evidence given to the commission which produced the report on the1916 Easter Rising and is an important finding of the report. A few weeks back I quoted Augustine Birrell’s evidence at length when challenged on this issue.

    Every political interest in this polarised situation needs to look at itself, but where it is clear that Republicanism has unquestionably resorted to violence to achieve its ends in the recent troubles, Unionism justifies and sentimentalises the inceptive told it played on creating the situation. An earlier generation of Unionists honestly recognised that they had resorted to illegally and to sectarian violence to achieve partition. Today no fault can be admitted.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Very thought provoking: “poetry, the opposite of propaganda” is a great turn of phrase from Longley and requires contemplation as does poetry itself.
    Of course poetry involves the imagination which is part of its incantatory appeal.
    Of course propaganda also fires the imagination but it only fires the weaknesses of this species’ imaginings: fears, exclusivity, group superiority, recrimination etc.
    At the risk of applying a poetic attribute to propaganda: it’s as if NI needs to believe in its tribal lies in order to feel certain.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I’m taking down from my bookshelves my anthologies of poetry as I type: a more rewarding and challenging engagement.
    Oh, the first step in my progress towards self awareness is admitting to my own puckish sense of mischief. I can’t promise to do much to change that, sorry.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ben, have you encountered the term “flaneur”?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The great anthropologist Ernst Gellner in his studies of the phenomenon of nationalism perceptively suggested that all political use of cultural models is essentially parasitic.

    Of course I’d not limit nationalism to Irish Nationalism in a situation where our own local variety of British nationalism fails to notice that it’s harsh “nationalist” seperatism contrasts dramatically with the modern cosmopolitan Irishness which is currently fulfilling that pluralist model recommended by George Russell and others in the 1920s.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Bien sur, je flanais souvent les ruelles, les rues et les boulevards de Paris quand j’habitais là. On ne sait jamais les délices inattendues que l’on rencontrera. A fin d’accomplir flaneur de la classe olympique, il faut avoir une bonne souplesse d’esprit!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And wander also through our own intellectual byways in the same spirit! Bravo!

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And derivative? Like the deathless doggerel of demagoguery (that line’s being submitted for copyright).

  • MainlandUlsterman

    also, man-playing as I’m sure you’re aware. A waste of everyone’s time.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Don’t I know it?

  • Cadogan West

    Can I see another’s woe,

    And not be in sorrow too?

    Can I see another’s grief,

    And not seek for kind relief?

    Can I see a falling tear,

    And not feel my sorrow’s share?

    Can a father see his child

    Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

    William Blake On another’s Sorrow

    Can a mother sit and hear

    An infant groan, an infant fear?

    No, no! never can it be!

    Never, never can it be!

    And can He who smiles on all

    Hear the wren with sorrows small,

    Hear the small bird’s grief and care,

    Hear the woes that infants bear –

    And not sit beside the nest,

    Pouring pity in their breast,

    And not sit the cradle near,

    Weeping tear on infant’s tear?

    And not sit both night and day,

    Wiping all our tears away?

    O no! never can it be!

    Never, never can it be!

    He doth give His joy to all:

    He becomes an infant small,

    He becomes a man of woe,

    He doth feel the sorrow too.

    Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,

    And thy Maker is not by:

    Think not thou canst weep a tear,

    And thy Maker is not near.

    O He gives to us His joy,

    That our grief He may destroy:

    Till our grief is fled and gone

    He doth sit by us and moan.

    Can I see another’s woe,

    And not be in sorrow too?

    Can I see another’s grief,

    And not seek for kind relief?

    Can I see a falling tear,

    And not feel my sorrow’s share?

    Can a father see his child

    Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

    Can a mother sit and hear

    An infant groan, an infant fear?

    No, no! never can it be!

    Never, never can it be!

    And can He who smiles on all

    Hear the wren with sorrows small,

    Hear the small bird’s grief and care,

    Hear the woes that infants bear –

    And not sit beside the nest,

    Pouring pity in their breast,

    And not sit the cradle near,

    Weeping tear on infant’s tear?

    And not sit both night and day,

    Wiping all our tears away?

    O no! never can it be!

    Never, never can it be!

    He doth give His joy to all:

    He becomes an infant small,

    He becomes a man of woe,

    He doth feel the sorrow too.

    Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,

    And thy Maker is not by:

    Think not thou canst weep a tear,

    And thy Maker is not near.

    O He gives to us His joy,

    That our grief He may destroy:

    Till our grief is fled and gone

    He doth sit by us and moan.

    William Blake On another’s sorrow

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    It can be worthwhile taking the road less travelled (as long as we don’t disappear up our own fundament) but it’s best not explored alone. Stumbling across the undiscovered is best when it’s a shared experience: you can chance upon multiple undiscovereds.

  • Jeff

    Really disgraceful attack on the man Ben. M/U is a very fair minded poster, your your post only show you up, I’d take a bit of your own advice if I were you.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Please select from the above list. I’m all yours.

  • El Daddio

    What would be your perspective on the sectarian nature of violence from before 1912, Seaan?

    From after the plantations, we have the widespread events across Ulster of 1641, which were terrible on both sides, then the Peep-O-Days / Defenders emerging in in the 1780s when Catholics were allowed to rent / enter trades, which caused conflict.

    Things seemed quiet enough for a while, but then the Orangeism/Ribbonism events of the early/mid-1800s, culminating in Dolly’s Brae, seemed to me to be indicative of a longstanding animosity present regardless, even if they weren’t as widespread as later conflicts.

    Am I wrong in thinking that everything in the events pre-1912 were really more representative of the actual conflict among the peoples and ideologies, and 1912 was just it coming to fruition, or do you think the pre-1912 events are too sporadic and “of the time” to be of that much significance?

    As Cushnahan said, “Partition was the result of the divisions and not the cause of them.” Is there truth in this, and/or to what extent?

  • Nevin

    “to honestly recognise that 1912 created a pattern”

    Birrell had a different pattern in mind:

    Causes of the Outbreak.

    In dealing with the series of events which led up to the outbreak of the 24th April, 1916, and in endeavouring to elucidate the causes of the rebellion in Ireland, the fact should be borne in mind that there is always a section of opinion in that country bitterly opposed to the British connection, and that in times of excitement this section can impose its sentiments on largely increased numbers of the people. As Mr. Birrell described it : “The spirit of what to-day is called Sinn Feinism is mainly composed of the old hatred and distrust of the British connection, always noticeable in all classes, and in all places, varying in degree, and finding different ways of expression, but always there as the background of Irish politics and character.” .. Royal Commission report

    This ‘section of opinion’ long predated 1912. Imitation was also noted in the report:

    In the meantime the volunteers were steadily drilled and practised military manoeuvres by day and night. Ambulance classes were formed in imitation of a similar organisation in Ulster formed by the Ulster Volunteers.

    Lord Midleton gets a few mentions:

    In addition to the information contained in the above-mentioned reports of the Royal Irish Constabulary, Lord Midleton in November, 1915, had an interview with the Chief Secretary in which he strongly urged that the Irish Volunteers should be disarmed, and not permitted to parade, and he pressed for the prosecution of those responsible for seditious speeches. His warnings were entirely neglected.

  • Nevin

    I often explore alone but I can sometimes share what I’ve uncovered. Official lying can take place without the batting of an eye-lid – and sometimes academia doesn’t want to know.

  • Nevin

    “We believed that poetry, the opposite of propaganda, should encourage people to think and feel for themselves”

    I see no reason why poetry can’t be propaganda. Also, I can think and feel for myself without the aid of poetry and I’ve often been the beneficiary of that ‘generous instinct’.

  • El Daddio

    I edited the longer comment (added in the Cushnahan quote) moments after posting it, but I am not sure if it adds in or not when you view it on your “profile”, so to speak.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, if you read the appendix to the report you can read Birrell’s own words where he scathingly identifies the example of the UVF as the source of the revival of violent republican seperatism from marginalisation. The Report itself is at pains not to offend Carson, but the raw evidence speaks for itself. Again you take a secondary interpretation as your “proof” rather than the words of the person himself,

    I did post the full quote recently in response to Aodh, but have problems actually working s keyboard with my broken arm. You will have to check out the appendix yourself.

    The Irish Volunteers certainly did not predate their inceptive example. F

  • El Daddio

    Birrell is perceptive.

    “always a section of opinion in that country bitterly opposed to the British connection.”

    Connection is not an incorrect word, but perhaps there are some more.. strong words that may be more apt. However, to his credit, he does realise that (most of) we are (or consider ourselves) a different people to the “British”. If we were one and the same, there wouldn’t be a “connection”.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    je viens de vomi

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi El Daddio, the broad sweep version of the public history narrative is compelling, but highly misleading. Things really need to be examined close up and in careful detail. The success of Parnell in the 1880s effectively marginalised the violent tradition and crazed a situation where the IPPs constitutionalism had swept the field. As Helen Waddell said in a letter in 1916, by 1912 Ireland had been entirely won for Constitutionalism and the seperatist movement which looms so large after 1816 was a tiny marginalised group of outsiders. The UUCs Ulster Day signing of the Covenant in 1912 and the recourse to arms in1913 with the creation of the UVF changed the scene dramatically. It was like the shift between 1967 when people were marching against the Vietnam War who would in 1969 be marching to Derry.

    Belfast took the lead in sectarian activity across the nineteenth century, and the IRB activity elsewhere was on a small and ineffectual scale. It could honestly be claimed in 1910 that outseide of the north east corner the rest of Ireland had been almost free of any sectarian feeling for a century. In fact just over a hundred well placed Protestants issued a pamphlet stating that very claim in 1913.

    It would take more than a few paragraphs to unpack the statement that Oartition was the reflection of serious divisions. It would require a lot of quotes to argue properly, but simply put, that is seriously overeggimg the case. The reality is that a great deal of the division was fading away from the lives of most people before Unionism brought violence into the Constitutional argument, having been bested in the actual debate.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, while verse can frequently be propaganda, poetry never can. Yeats great gift to us all was to lift rumination on Ireland from the unquestioned propaganda of Thomas Davis into genuine art.

    That you can think and feel for yourself without the aid of poetry is no surprise,

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Birrell’s career is an interesting study in itself.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    *vomir

  • MainlandUlsterman

    merci

  • El Daddio

    The marginalisation of the violent tradition is a good point – a large level of public support for violent means wasn’t there in any form, on any part of the island, from after the Tithe War. What’s also true is that there were different factions within the IPP who saw HR as different things – some saw it as a stepping stone to eventual full independence, some as the end goal for greater freedoms as part of the UK or Empire. O’Connell’s full Repeal of the Union movement was never going to be allowed allowed get far, so HR via the IPP was purely pragmatic either way.

    having been bested in the actual debate.

    To be fair, you could argue that they were never bested in a debate, but more outnumbered democratically. Even the limited franchise available to Ireland at that time made it clear. The fact that Redmond held the balance of power in the 1810 HoC just sped things up on the Westminster side.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Je vous en prie monsieur, mais développe pas la boulimie : vous voulez pas rajouter à vos maux éxistants.

  • Nevin

    Surely poetry and verse are intertwined? A random dip into Yeat’s poetry produced When You Are Old – a load of romantic tosh!

    When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

    Well I’m old and grey – and a couple of nights ago Cory and me were relaxing by this peat fire:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/780846d51c179eb0e157dfe288b87b2d20eaceeb9e0d89d9d618c8880baafa9b.jpg

    We’re in the same location now – minus a fire in the grate.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Felicitations – vous pouvez m’injurier dans deux langues.

    Was sonst, jetzt auf deutsch?

  • mac tire

    That’s a fine looking fire, I must say.

  • mickfealty

    Nev,

    See Longley’s use of the words ‘impertinence’ and ‘blasphemy’ above.

    He neither says nor implies that poetry cannot be put to such uses. He merely describes a famous tension in the poet between the call of society and the need to be true to the vocation of an artist.

    See Heaney in The Flight Path

    So he enters and sits down
    Opposite and goes for me head on.

    ‘When, for fuck’s sake, are you going to write
    Something for us?’ ‘If I do write something,
    Whatever it is, I’ll be writing for myself.’

    It’s an important distinction, and one with echoes in Graves’ great poetic grammar of myth “The White Goddess”, where he observes that “fact is not truth, but a poet who willfully defies fact cannot achieve truth.”

    So MacNeice’s ‘generous instinct’ renders in poetic language “what is”. Nor is the thing described, as you so contemptuously imply, claimed by the poet. Its currency derives from enduring resonance, accuracy and truth.

    Can you think independently without poetry, science or any other particular class of social knowledge? That’s well above my own pay grade. Does Longley even come close to making such a claim? Nope.

    Heaney again, Away from it All from Station Island (1984):

    I was stretched between contemplation
    of a motionless point
    and the command to participate
    in history.

  • mickfealty

    Ah, trial by selective quote is it? Try this, instead: the last three stanzas of A Prayer for my Daughter:

    An intellectual hatred is the worst,
    So let her think opinions are accursed.
    Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
    Out of the mouth of Plenty’s horn,
    Because of her opinionated mind
    Barter that horn and every good
    By quiet natures understood
    For an old bellows full of angry wind?

    Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
    The soul recovers radical innocence
    And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
    Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
    And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
    She can, though every face should scowl
    And every windy quarter howl
    Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

    And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
    Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;
    For arrogance and hatred are the wares
    Peddled in the thoroughfares.
    How but in custom and in ceremony
    Are innocence and beauty born?
    Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
    And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

  • mickfealty

    Don’t give up the day job Ben!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, you are selecting a poem from Yeats’ apprentice work during the 1890s. While there is much of value there, none stands comparison with the poetry of the 1920/30s where Yeats work stands alongside any of the great poets of the world for strength and depth. Micks quote of the poem for Ann Yeats perfectly illustrates this.

    In the 1900s a number of English and American poets began to attend the Irish Literary Society which London Irish writers had set up in the 1890s. Through the Society Yeats met Ezra Pound and the work of both poets was stimulated by the Encounter. It was Yeats place in the international modern movement which placed the demands on him that developed his work, and gave the Third Irish Cultural Revival and Irish literature in general it’s place at the centre of modernism, not propaganda.

    Just an aside, the poem you mock was a pastiche of one of the great poems by the sixteenth century French poet Pierre de Ronsard, known in his generation as the prince of poets. Try googling him.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, where you to mix perhaps with people under thirty here, the influence of the Belfast Agreement is evident in the manner in which many of the preoccupation shows of the past have become redundant for such people, as they had for many of us in the 1960s. As a teenager in the 1960s I developed a wide circle of both Catholic and Protestant friends, something I see happening again today for young people. If the Agreement is not destroyed by partial readings and political self interest, your pessimism hopefully will have been misplaced.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not writing off reconciliation generally or understating its importance, nor missing some of the hopeful signs from post-Troubles generations. And actually it was/is more than present in my own Troubles generation – most people I knew at school ran a mile from anything resembling Protestant-Catholic conflict and were similarly turned off by the politics of it all. The point I was making was about something we serially do in N Ireland, like dysregulated children: we build up huge unrealistic hopes and then wail when we don’t achieve them quickly. Reconciliation over what certain people in Northern Ireland did to the public, public servants and each other in the Troubles wasn’t ever going to come quickly or easily.

    After the hugely promising start of 1998, we have also gone about reconciliation badly. Those responsible for Troubles crimes on all sides, and those sympathetic to them, I think wanted to wave a wand in 1998 and declare the embarrassing and shameful parts of what they did a non-subject. That goes for Republicans, Loyalists and those who abused their positions in the security forces to commit crimes too. That urge was indulged out of the political convenience of the time – of course we were all very keen for their violence to have stopped. We were urged not to push them too far on anything else, lest they start up again. So I think they were allowed to believe they really could park this stuff “in the past” and ignore it. But of course feelings don’t work that way. If you don’t deal with resentments and bitterness with honesty and tenacity, they won’t go away, they just grow in subterranean influence, hidden but deeply controlling our present reality. It is so obvious that N Ireland has not properly processed the Troubles it barely needs stating.

    And for all the hope of younger generations wanting to avoid conflict, I worry N Ireland is still an unreconciled, uncomfortable society. More hardline voices in nationalism want to see this as because it’s in the UK, but of course they do tend to put almost everything down to that one aspect of life as their ideology dictates. Looking at things as they really are, the lack of reconciliation is largely the legacy of mutual mistrust between two peoples each of which thinks the other has it in for them – and each of which is suspected of revelling in the pain it put the other through. That would apply whatever country the place is part of. “The integrity of their quarrel” as ATQ Stewart noted goes back over centuries.

    So, if we’re serious about reconciliation, we need a robust and scrupulously fair working Troubles legacy process. We need to rehumanise the recent past and confront the reality of what people went through and – this is important – in many cases are still going through.

    But to get back to the point, we should not judge the success of it on whether we all feel refreshed and cleansed immediately after its completion. We won’t. It is a necessary process to help healing and help build a healthier, less prejudiced, less bitter and fairer society with many fewer permissible lies about the past. But it will take generations for the place to get over the Troubles. A lot of people who had to grow up amidst the Troubles are still only in our 40s now, even 30s. Our generation are only now coming into positions of political leadership. It may be another generation before we have genuinely post-Troubles leadership of our politics.

    Oh and Seaan I have two kids so spend a lot of time with people under 33! I also go around the country meeting younger people for my job – including even in Northern Ireland sometimes. If you want to know about how the current generation of teenage boys talk about relationships, for example, that’s what I spent last summer working on, believe it or not.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you MU for an excellent and carefully thought out response. A great deal of what you are saying I’d generally agree with, but on the inevitability of a slow reconciliation I’d still have to demur. Here on the ground I can see considerable rejection of the concerns of thectroubles generation amongst younger people, who do not see either the RoI or the UK as foreign.

    As you will be aware, I am with Theo Moody and FSL Lyons in rejecting the myth of “the integrity of their quarrel” over centuries. These have been very different quarrels, and although fine and careful historians such as ATQ Stewart have accepted the generalisation of similarities, there is much excellent work on the discontinuity of Irish History. We are experiencing another such break at present where the concerns of the troubles generation. So dominant on our horizons, is waining under the commonality of the EU membership. The exit may of course damage this, as is the intent of those who consciously supported it in the hope that it would reverse the unsung process of reconciliation lite, but if we are lucky and common sense prevails this wrecking move may in turn fail.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Let’s hope. I think there are bigger forces even than Brexit and one of them is the generational shift in Western societies towards a greater appreciation of our shared humanity – being a decent human being is increasingly de rigueur, not an optional extra. So I think the instinct of younger generations to be nicer to each other and avoid conflict will, longer term, help the consociationalist cause in N Ireland against attacks from the ‘winner takes all’ brigade. That should bode well for long term stability. Against that, I do worry whether like the naive young Corbynistas, we could have a generation of ‘sheep’ not quite realising their leaders are ‘wolves’.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    It’s a homage to our home grown Amanda McKittrick Ross with a nod to McGonagall.

  • Nevin

    We have great weather for it!

  • Nevin

    Seaan, it wasn’t a selection, it was a random dip. The first two lines, by chance, more or less coincided with reality. Hence, the attachment of the photo.

  • mickfealty

    Twittish comment though Nev. This is a serious thread (despite the efforts of others), if you’ve nothing to add to it, don’t feel obliged to do so. Even if it was a nice picture.

  • mickfealty

    Given the gravity of Longley’s piece, disappointing.

  • Nevin

    “Twittish comment”

    Quite.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I enjoyed the photo, by the way.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    As we’re on poetry, not poetry but poetic prose from Robert McLiam Wilson’s brilliant Eureka Street:
    “That was what I liked about Belfast hatred. It was a lumbering hatred that could survive comfortably on the memory of things that never existed in the first place. There was a certain admirable stamina in that.”

    I also thought of this from Roy McFadden’s ‘After Seymour’s Funeral’:
    “While patriots inflitrate,
    Plain citizens lack language to prefer
    A proper challenge at the barricades.
    Who, they could say, goes where?”

  • Cadogan West

    Son by Pavel Antokolsky

    Do not call me, father, do not seek me,

    Do not call me, do not wish me back.

    We’re on a route uncharted, fire and blood erase our tracks.

    On we fly,on wings of thunder, never more to sheath our swords.

    All of us in battle fallen, not to be brought back by words.

    Will there be a rendezvous? I know not.

    I only know we still must fight.

    We are sand grains in infinity, never to meet, never more see light.

    Farewell then my son. Farewell then my conscience.

    My youth and my solace my one and my only.

    And let this farewell be the end of a story,

    Of solitude vast and which none is more lonely.

    In which you remain, barred forever and ever,

    From light and from air, with your death pangs untold.

    Untold and unsoothed, not to be resurrected.

    Forever and ever, an 18 year old.

    Farewell then, no trains ever come from those regions

    Unscheduled or scheduled, no aeroplanes fly there.

    Farewell then my son, for no miracles happen,

    As in this world dreams do not come true.

    Farewell…

    I will dream of you still as a baby,

    Treading the earth with little strong toes,

    The earth where already so many lie buried.

    This song to my son, is come to its close.