Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Leaving Ireland

St Patrick's Cathedral
We’ve not yet left and oh, how I yearn to return to Ireland.  I must wangle my way here again – as a student or a teacher – to spend some time in this country.  I have loved Galway and Dublin and yearn to see the countryside.
Yesterday [Sunday, September2] we began our stay in Dublin with a literary pub crawl.  Two actors presented an opening scene from Waiting for Godot.  Then we traveled around the neighborhood with stories of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and Brendan Behan.  More recently the poet Michael Longley writes of the reconciliation between Irish and English:  “I get down on my knees to do what must be done, to act as did Achilles, and kiss my killer’s son.” Ireland still suffers from the wrongs done by the British. 
We went to O’Neill’s and back to enjoy some lunch.  At the Old Stand, we learn the name was originally the Monaco and at a “quiz” given by our guide, I win second prize (not the t-shirt – but better, a miniature Bushmill’s Whiskey).
After our lunch – with Linda and the Serios – where we encounter the Stewarts who have just arrived from their cross-Ireland trip, we then go on to the National Museum where we visit the Treasury and learn about Medieval era of Ireland, documented largely by finds preserved in Irish bogs (including early humans).   Even fabric – hats, dresses, tunics – survives in the bog.  The Fadden More Psalter – a 1000 year old book of psalms – was found preserved in a bog and then restored by archivists.  The 6th century “Springmount tablets” are also found in the bogs, and they record portions of Psalms.
The treasury contains many early works of gold – crescent shaped collars of thinly beaten gold as well as heavier gold necklaces.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the day was our sojourn to Donough’s where we heard the most incredible Irish band play – a fiddler/piper, drummer, banjo player, guitar players, another pipe.  They were fabulous singing and playing.  Sometimes the music is as though the instruments are racing one another as they enjoy good “craich” – so the expression goes.  Really beautiful.  As we were leaving one of the musicians outside looked down the street and said “isn’t it beautiful how the street is laid out” and indeed you could see a modern structure but beyond it a dome of the cathedral or another building!  What a great pleasure that was – it reminded me of the old time fiddlers’ convention in Galax, both in the intensity of playing and the kind of music.  After all our mountain music was derived from the Scots Irish.
Arriving home late, Gail Weigl, Linda and I found tasty hamburgers on the 7th floor grill. Linda and I took them to our cabin and washed them down with white wine.  Ah, then, I slept the sleep of the dead, arising just in time to make breakfast.
Monday, September 3, 2012                       Dublin on my own
It was well worth the effort rising early enough to ride the first bus into Dublin so I could be among the first to gain entrance to see the Book of Kells.  This book was also found in the bogs by two truck drivers who were removing the peat for commercial purposes.  Archaeologists then dug and found the manuscript which was restored.  The monks who illustrated these beautiful pages were only 18-19 but considered mature men at the time.  Sheepskin was often used and had the virtue of being “erasable” – by scraping a knife across the surface.  There were many meanings and images used in the books.  Each of the gospel writers were indicated by an animal, although now I can recollect only that an eagle depicted John.  I’m not sure about the other three.  Google research to be sure.
 Despite the beauty, many of the manuscripts had scribbles in the margins notes from the monks:  “I’m bored,”   “this is difficult,” etc.  This amused me greatly.  Each day four pages are put out for the public to look at it.  The ones today were the figures of John and Luke  (John 1:  “In the beginning was the word . . .” and Luke 16, 10-22 . . . ).  They were very beautiful, illuminated manuscripts and it was well worth the visit.  I still have my guide tape and should listen to it again.  (Again I ran into Gordon and Greta Stewart).
After this, I went to the National Gallery where I first ran into Bob and Gail Weigl and later, Larry Silver, Linda and the Boeschensteins.  I visited first the Irish gallery because I wanted to see Irish art.  There were controversial paintings like Nathaniel Home’s one of Joshua Reynolds accusing Reynolds and other Academy artists of being, at best derivativists, and at worst, copiers of other artists.  A beautiful painting by William Davis of the wooded area on the Rye.  An apocalyptic view of the end of the world from Revelations by Richard Rothwell (1800-1868).  Another lovely one was of Tenor John McCormick by William Orgen and a portrait of a well-known  Lady  as a character,  Kathleen of Houllihan, in WB Yeats’  nationalist play.  This portrait was to be used as currency.  Yeats was to have said “Every Irishmen not to mention the foreigners who visit Ireland will carry this next to his heart.”  And a lovely portrait of Maeve Binchy by a contemporary  artist Marie McCarthy.
By Jack Keats
I loved the modern art of Jack Yeats, 1871-1957, and I’m still not sure how or if he is related to the poet, although  W.B. Yeats’ father was also a painter of an earlier period (and even W.B. made some rather than water colors but more on that later).  Yeats’ paintings are very modern, abstract with strong brush work.
We’re leaving Dublin so I must pause and look out my window.  The sky is pink behind the loading area with the baby blue cranes and dark blue containers.  It’s really rather beautiful in its own way.
There was a wonderful Caravaggio just after the moment of the betrayal of Christ, a Vermeer of the lady writing a letter and a lovely early Van Gogh that I had never seen.  A painting of a view of Paris from his Montmartre apartment.  Two thirds of it is white sky but applied with the thick swirls of paint that he was soon to become so famous for.  This is the first painting after the dark “Potato Eaters,” and shows the beginning of what would become Van Gogh’s very bright palette.  So much more I could write about the Gallery.
I then moved on to the National Library where I stopped to see an exhibit on William Butler Yeats.  The poet’s life was presented through many manuscripts of his poems and early books (and plays), but the stories were told in a series of brief films continuously running in different areas of the exhibition hall.  There was one about Yeats and women – he didn’t marry till in his 50s and then to a woman half his age “George” and he continued to have many affairs throughout his life.  Others were about Yeats’ involvement with the cause of Irish nationalism, his interest in the occult, and his political career in the Irish Senate.  Unfortunately at the end of his life, Yeats flirted with Italian fascism but died in 1939 before the start of World War II.  (Interestingly, Ezra Pound was a student of his).  Of course this exhibit made me want to read a biography of Yeats. 
A stunning feature of this exhibit was a continuous reading of Yeats’ poems by various narrators (including “Lake Isle of Innisfree” read by Yeats himself) with the language projected as the poems are read.  Such a beautiful tribute to this great poet. 
After this I walked some distance to St. Patrick’s.  Fortunately a tour began shortly after I arrived with James Morris (I think – same name, he told me, as one of the deans of the Cathedral) and a woman Kathleen O’Neill; she had a brother who had attended the University of Virginia for a year.
They showed us so much:  especially interesting was a Handel organ on which they claimed that Handel  played the Messiah outdoors for the poor people of Dublin.  This will give a whole new meaning to me when we sing the Messiah in December.
Other Facts I had not known (of if I had, I had forgotten):  St. Patrick was Welsh, not Irish, but came to Ireland as a young man and later returned there to help the Irish.   Jonathan Swift, the great satirist, was dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  St. P’s is Anglican since the Reformation, although it originated as a Catholic Church.  Some of the more modern (1930s) stained glass windows were controversial because they depicted Mary with the poor children of the world and a vision of the people of God as an interracial group.  A Mr. Guinness (he of Beer fame) provided the funds to restore St. Patrick’s, including reproducing the beautiful tile floor that covered the entire ground floor.  A sculpture of him is in the side cemetery.
Ah, after St. Patrick’s I walked back along the River Liffey to George’s Quay where the SAS shuttle picked us up at 5.  Fortunately most of us got on the bus, and only a few had to find their way via taxi.
After wine and almonds with Linda in my cabin, we had dinner on the deck with Pat from Santa Barbara (and Malibu) who told us interesting stories about her family (her grandparents having come from Ireland and settled in Santa Barbara).
 Kay with Oscar Wilde in Merion Park

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Thanks so much for this. I feel more learned already and it's only 10:30 a.m. I've never been to Ireland and you've made me want to go. To say thanks, I googled the gospel author symbols. I vaguely knew they existed but didn't know which symbols went with which Gospel writer or why they were chosen. Here's what I found since you're probably too busy seeing to be googling at the moment