Ireland is home to the earliest works written in a local language in Western Europe. Much of that early literature featured mythological themes in the form of chants, songs, and poems. The tradition there is a long one covering perhaps 1500 years. Here is a short poem from our time written by William Butler Yeats, Ireland's Nobel Prize-winning literary icon. Indeed, the past is never far from the present...or the future.
To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, where of stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded hy man's fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.
Come near, come near, come near - Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more bear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.
Music for the day comes from the pen of Charles V. Stanford, an Irishman often credited with the British music renaissance of the early 20th century. The selection is the first ten minutes - one of two parts - of his Irish Rhapsody No. 1, Op. 78
Yeats poem, The Literature Network, www.online-literature.com