Wednesday, March 15, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Primer - Wednesday Edition

About the "Luck of the Irish"....

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.

For today's music we look to Ireland not as a source but as a venue for one of the world's most beloved compositions, Messiah. George Frederic Handel composed his oratorio in London in less than four weeks. He chose Dublin as the site of the premiere because his works in the past year had met with a mediocre reception in London. On April 13, 1742 Messiah was greeted enthusiastically at its first performance. That enthusiasm spread quickly to London and throughout the western world. Here is the version of the Hallelujah chorus as it was performed in Dublin in 1742.


Photos and Illustrations:
Postcards,  author's family archives

Yeats poem, The Literature Network,

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