On completing Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (Bliain Úr 2006)On completing Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (Bliain Úr 2006)
Charles Dickens is overwhelming in so many ways. Overwhelming in the kindness of his heart. Overwhelming in his sense of justice. Overwhelming in his writing – the excoriating journalism, beautiful and atmospheric descriptions, the pin sharp caricatures of the mannerisms displayed by the characters who inhabit the world he creates.
More than anything, Dickens is an incredibly emotional writer and this emotion carries the reader bundling and bouldering along, even in the very few places where the narrative may flag. Men cry in the Dickensian world and we cry along with them; we note their bonding with other men and their often justified hatreds, their aspirations and how others scheme to bring them down. One other overarching theme in all his works is Dickens’s belief in the basic goodness of human beings. Dickens does not appear to have ever been cynical, either with regard to the value of his campaigning style of authorship, or with regard to the essential value of his fellow man. It is true that Dickens once turfed the original Ugly Duckling (Hans Christian Andersen) out of his house after the Dane had outstayed his welcome by a couple of months but we all have bad hair days.
There is one other thing about Dickens. He is great craic. Here we find the much put upon Gabriel Varden in Barnaby Rudge gagging for a pint after a hard day's graft in his trade as a locksmith. But he had sworn to his much putting upon wife Martha that he would head straight home from work.
"The Maypole--two miles to the Maypole. I came the other road from the Warren after a long day's work at locks and bells, on purpose that I should not come by the Maypole and break my promise to Martha by looking in--there's resolution! It would be dangerous to go on to London without a light; and it's four miles, and a good half mile besides, to the Halfway-House; and between this and that is the very place where one needs a light most. Two miles to the Maypole! I told Martha I wouldn't; I said I wouldn't, and I didn't--there's resolution!'
Repeating these two last words very often, as if to compensate for the little resolution he was going to show by piquing himself on the great resolution he had shown, Gabriel Varden quietly turned back, determining to get a light at the Maypole, and to take nothing but a light."
I defy any many man who has a taste for the drink ,and who has at some time broken a promise about avoiding the pub, not to laugh and nod his head in recognition of Gabriel Varden's plight. Many of us have gone out into the night just to get a light. The above quote also illustrates something else about Dickens. Like Shakespeare, with whom he is often compared, he is completely at ease with ordinary life and ordinary people. This is so untrue of writers today, where with most of them, you could never imagine striking up a conversation, never mind going on the lash with them to the Maypole. Modern writers turn their backs as quickly as is financially possible on their proletarian backgrounds. They hole themselves up in middle class ghettoes and preach to each other on lecture circuits and chirp the same mantra in the pages of the Irish Times. This mantra usually runs along the lines of how bad their childhood was and that the Catholic Church is hell on earth and Sinn Féin its modern day Inquisition.
For Dickens, normality formed the background story from which he could introduce his fantastic characters and stories which were doubly fantastic precisely because of the stark contrast with the utterly mundane. Dicken's empathy with the working and tradesmen classes rings clear as the deep tone of a bell throughout all his works. Gabriel Varden in Barnaby Rudge is a case in point. Gabriel is in fact the real hero of Barnaby Rudge and the book was initially named after him. Gabriel is as warm and as jovial as a Christmas Pudding and yet has a steely streak within him which will not accept injustice, or the tyranny of a mob. The background to Barnaby Rudge is the Gordon Uprising, or Gordon Riots, led by Lord George Gordon, which were a series of pogroms against London’s Roman Catholics in the 1780s. These sectarian agitations followed the passing of a Catholic Relief Act in 1778. As funny as Gabriel Varden is in the above scene outside the Maypole, he is by turn as rigidly defiant against the mob who demand the locks of Newgate jail from him. Though completely on his own, and completely at the mercy of a drunken mob, Gabriel refuses their repeated requests for the keys to the main gate in the jail where many of their co-conspirators are incarcerated.
"He had never loved his life so well as then, but nothing could move him. The savage faces that glared upon him, look where he would; the cries of those who thirsted, like wild animals, for his blood; the sight of men pressing forward, and trampling down their fellows, as they strove to reach him, and struck at him above the heads of other men, with axes and with iron bars; all failed to daunt him. He looked from man to man, and face to face, and still, with quickened breath and lessening colour, cried firmly, 'I will not!"
It was Dickens, who privately was no friend of Catholicism, in writing Barnaby Rudge in the 1830s who laid bare an underlying anti Catholic hatred in England. Barnaby Rudge puts modern day Irish writers to shame by exposing their abject failure to write about that same sectarianism in the Six Counties presently controlled by the Empire. Indeed this comparison can be stretched even futher to include most journalists in this country as well. Charles Dicken's not only beat all these scribes in the craft of writing, which in fairness is to be expected, but more importantly, he also slaughters them with his complete honesty. This can be seen in the way most writers and journalists portray the utterly sectarian Ian Paisley and his Free Presbyterian DUP party as an honest broker in the peace process.
In the end, good prevails over evil, truth above calumny, human decency above rapine in Barnaby Rudge, and it is true that some critics have objected to the many fairy tale contrivances which can be found in Dickens’s works. Little Bob Cratchet survives after all in A Christmas Carol; Oliver Twist gets his much deserved inheritance; Wackford Squeers gets his comeuppance from young Nicholas in Nicholas Nickelby, a scene I particularly enjoy.
Great Expectations, however, does not end with the cathartic certainties familiar to most of Dickens’s works. Dickens had two endings to Great Expectations, apparently. In the first, probably more realistic ending, Pip does not finally fulfil his adolescent dreams and marry Estella. In the second and conventional ending, Pip and Estella meet at the very end of the book and exit the scene with “no shadow of another parting” being seen. Yet Pip is never a fully sympathetic character and probably reflects some of the fear of being dragged down by poverty which had haunted Charles Dickens himself as a youth, once his family had fallen on hard times. Pip is also continually mean to the one out and out hero in Great Expectations, Joe Gargery, who had ever been a rock of good sense and font of friendship to him. Yet despite the more realistic approach in Great Expectations, the overwhelming message which rings out from this and all of Dickens’s other works is that human beings are essentially decent by nature and usually brought down by social circumstance. In most of these great books, there is also an upright, but perhaps shy or immature hero who is presented with a series of disasters before finding some more or less happy resolution. These heroes will usually, eventually, display an incredible propensity for charity and self sacrifice. Pip in Great Expectations gives much of his fortune away to a friend, Nicholas Nicholby risks his own career to rescue the oppressed children of a school for boys; even Ebenezer Scrooge dispenses munificence and dollops of Christmas Karma at the end of A Christmas Carol. It is this unshakeable belief in human decency, more than anything else, which excites our belief in the stories themselves. Because most of us believe, or want to believe, the same thing.
To finish, there is one other aspect to Dickens's work which in my view puts him on a level with Shakespeare and that is his mastery of the English language and the way he used that mastery to create unforgettable atmospheres. If we go back to Gabriel Varden in Great Expectations hovering in the vicinity of the Maypole, we find one of the finest homages to the delights of tavern life ever written in any language.
"When he got to the Maypole, however, and Joe, responding to his well-known hail, came running out to the horse's head, leaving the door open behind him, and disclosing a delicious perspective of warmth and brightness--when the ruddy gleam of the fire, streaming through the old red curtains of the common room, seemed to bring with it, as part of itself, a pleasant hum of voices, and a fragrant odour of steaming grog and rare tobacco, all steeped as
it were in the cheerful glow--when the shadows, flitting across the curtain, showed that those inside had risen from their snug seats, and were making room in the snuggest corner (how well he knew that corner!) for the honest locksmith, and a broad glare, suddenly streaming up, bespoke the goodness of the crackling log from which a brilliant train of sparks was doubtless at that moment whirling up the chimney in honour of his coming--when, superadded to these enticements, there stole upon him from the distant kitchen a gentle sound of frying, with a musical clatter of plates and dishes, and a savoury smell that made even the boisterous wind a perfume--Gabriel felt his firmness oozing rapidly away. He tried to look stoically at the tavern, but his features would relax into a look of fondness. He turned his head the other way, and the cold black country seemed to frown him off, and drive him for a refuge into its hospitable arms.
'The merciful man, Joe,' said the locksmith, 'is merciful to his beast. I'll get out for a little while."
Fascism has not gone away - Fascist Trade Union establilshed in UK - No Pasaran !BNP trade union unmasked
The anti fasciist magazine Searchlight has revealed that the British National Party has launched a trade union. "Solidarity – The Union for British Workers" was registered with the trade unions Certification Office shortly before Christmas. Solidarity claims that it will be a normal trade union defending the interests of any British worker, but in reality it will be simply a scab union and a front for the BNP.
The creation of a trade union signals a dramatic departure for the fascist party. After years of encouraging members to infiltrate existing unions in the hope of seeking confrontation with officials, the BNP is now setting up an alternative structure.
According to documents lodged with the Certification Office, which regulates matters concerning trade unions, Solidarity aims to "improve the relations between employers and employees throughout all industries served by the union". It will also strive: "to protect, assist and promote the working and living conditions of the citizens of the British Isles".
It all seems above board at first appearance but a closer look at the registration form makes its true agenda more apparent. Solidarity will also, its documents claim, "resist and oppose all forms of institutional union corruption" and "promote freedom within and without the Trades Union movement, protecting and promoting freedom of belief, thought and speech, irrespective of political and religious affiliation or creed".
It also intends to set up a Political Fund and "print, publish, issue and circulate" literature that "may seem conducive to the … objects of Solidarity". It will also seek to "aid and join with any organisation, federation, political representative or body … having for their object, or one of their objects, the promotion of the interests of workers or the furtherance of the political objectives enshrined within the Political Fund".
There is no reference in the documents to BNP involvement but let there be no mistake about it, this is a BNP front.
The "President" of the union is Clive Potter, a long-time BNP activist from Leicester, who was expelled from Unison for improper conduct. Other BNP activists involved in the project include Jay Lee, who was recently booted out of Aslef, and John Walker, the BNP's national treasurer, who has had his own troubles with the T&G.
Solidarity operates in name but so far not in reality. For it to be a proper trade union it will have to obtain a certificate of independence. This is a long and complicated process and one that will cost the BNP several thousand pounds.
Searchlight's exposure of Solidarity and its clear role as a front for the BNP will hopefully encourage a more thorough investigation by the Certification Office and complaints from trade unions. More importantly, however, the birth of Solidarity should remind the union movement of the need to oppose the BNP and highlight the incompatibility of racist politics with the ethos of trade unionism, which is based on solidarity and unity.
After the election of Michelle Bachelet as President of Chile, listen to "Venceremos" by Working Week again and remember - We Will WinThe song Venceremos came into my head this morning, a song that never fails to lift my spirits, following the groundbreaking election of Michelle Bachelet, a 54 year old woman, socialist and former chairperson of Socialist Youth in the government of the subsequently murdered Salvador Allende. Michelle Bachelet was interrogated and tortured herself as was her father, and her election is another great sign of hope in a region from which so much hope now springs. "Venceremos was written as far as I know, by Simon Booth and is a political tribute to the dignity and courage of the Chilean people in its struggle against the "disappearances" and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Sung by vocal trio Robert Wyatt, Tracey Thorn, Claudia Figueroa, it is one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I have ever heard. The song should be played all over Ireland this week in celebration of what has happened.
Líonainn mo chroí suas le dóchas agus bród nuair a cloisim na focail seo thíos agus chuimhním i dtólamh ár laochra féin a fuair bás ar son saoirse na tíre. Seal dubh dorcha a bhí na seachtóidí agus ochtóidí sa tSile (agus i nÉirinn chomh maith) ach anois tá pobal na Sile díreach i ndiaidh Michelle Bachelet, (bean 54 bliain d’aois sóisialaí!) a cheapadh mar Uachtarán úr. Venceremos. Beidh an bua againn. We Will Win.
Venceremos - We Will Win (Simon Booth)
A comment is passed
Like dust and glass
Full of fear,
Held in this heaven and hell.
Each time it's spoken,
There's a fragment broken,
Now the rain is falling,
A train is passing,
A gun is firing,
Splitting out here in the night
in which we live.
We'll find a way,
To build a day,
Sooner than tomorrow.
And so it goes
As our love flows,
A strength is found,
In a history bold and proud.
Safe in rooms,
In which we find survival
Hope will tread a greater end
So we'll move my friend
Into safer light,
Here we will win
Here we will win
Here we will win
A new world in the making,
It's there for the taking
Santiago to Rio
The moment is waiting
The lost will be found
And named out aloud
Photos carried high
The lives they're denied.
A nation is breathing
In cities and farmlands,
In bedrooms and boardrooms,
Life held in suspension
A breath that is scented
With warmth and friendship,
And we sleep here as lovers,
Companeros in cover,
We'll tread a greater end,
And so we'll move my friend
Into safer light,
Knowing that we will win.
Un mundo que se abre
Esta por hacerse
De Santiago a Rio
Se espera el momento
Con retraros en alto
Esas vidas negadas
Como la nueva pasion
De un amor que brilla
Como el orgullo de crear
Una nacion que respira
De ciudades a campos
De hogar en hogar
La vida en suspenso
Un respiro fragante
De calor Y amistad
Durmiendo como amantes
Lograremos un gran final
No nos moveran
Sabiendo Que vamos a vencer
THE RUN OF YOUR LIFE - poemNote from Paul Larkin regarding this poem -
Every week I go for a run in Phoenix Park. An alleged wit, and alleged friend, once suggested that it is not a run but a "stagger". Be that as it may, I run or stagger around one of the most beautiful parks in the world and find that I think more and pray more when I am running than in any other opportunity I might have in my life . This poem, The Run Of Your Life, started out as a light hearted sketch and gradually became darker and darker as my thoughts and writing turned to certain things I see or feel in the park and to my alcoholic father, Trócaire Dé ar a anam, who suffered a terrible death.
THE RUN OF YOUR LIFE
You are either a runner or you are not,
If you are a runner, you cannot stop.
Runners don’t run away from things,
They run towards them, saying
This is more than pleasure, this is more than pain.
A writer once said that you know you are a writer
When the thought of not writing is a terror.
We are writers of the road, pounding pounding on our toes
Writers are really running when they are typing,
We are all adrenaline seekers running from sheer compulsion.
This run will take you around the Phoenix Park, Dublin,
Which should be Bright Water - Fionn Uisce -
Páirc An Fhionn Uisce but, being the post colonial Irish,
We are already plunged into a duality
Who are we?, What name?, Where are we really?
And me only at the North Circular gate
The Proscenium Arch through which, as in every true marathon,
The whole of the Universe is revealed and yet
It is fitting there should be a Phoenix in the tale
To rise again stretching, questing, fibrillating.
Welcome to the portal of heaven and hell where
Thin, emaciated youths congregate like taibhsí
Looking at me like I am the madman - where’s the craic in that?
They burning for that score that will never come again,
The runner’s surefire iridescence, that glimpse of heaven.
Could they only know the overwhelming scent
There, just there at the bend, of wet hyacinth
That the runner greets like an old friend
Offering the first prayer, for a run is a penance,
Sé do bheatha a Mháire tá a lán do ghrásta.
Tá an Tiarna leat, an bhfuil an Tiarna liom?
Níl an luas ceart agam agus mothaím trom
Short of breath, mind and body knows what’s ahead
A stitch to cross, the eternal thread,
A barrier to breach for that first stage of grace.
On past the Garda barracks which will be Forever England
Will I stop and stretch? no, no place to bend the knee,
It was alleged that this road was flat your Honour
Is beannaithe thú idir mná, dig in and run Larkin for God’s sake
And with the first sprint, comes the fire of release.
I hear BBC Sport commentary and the voice of David Coleman
Tinny voice of yesteryear when all I knew was fear:
“And incredibly at the age of 48 Paul Larkin is breaking away
From the pack, still pressing, still pushing, still challenging the rest and the Crowd rises as one in response to this.”
Disturbed from my delirium by the machine gun heckle of flying geese
Or were they pigs? and fresh faced kids coming from the Zoo
All white skin and healthy Irish freckles, faces for the future,
One crying Mistah...Mistah. Ya dropped your bleedin pacemaker
For which cheek he gets a soft clatter from his da
A crowd, yes, a crowd, my Muse cries for a crowd
Now I am reforged by the hammers and anvils of my own self belief.
Unlike our artists hiding behind their abstract walls like thieves
Crying everything is relative and mocking the people,
Woe to the artist who can call evil good, and good evil.
This is my Lough Derg for the Holy Spirit and my dead relatives,
Phlegm in my nose and throat, spit and a nod to other runners,
For a man, the celebration of maleness and endeavour,
Was there a sharp intake of breath on the Left there?
Where the sheer joy of maleness has withered on the socialist vine.
Mise fear, muidne na fir, Fear - Vir, Fearúil-Virile,
I pray that we will once more learn our etymology,
That there may be no more toilet signs saying Gents,
There are no gentlemen in Ireland only stand up Men.
We are Fir agus Mná na hÉireann sin é.
Mise fear an dáin, uaigneach ach daingean i lár na coille,
Mise Achilles, no mere warrior but above all a runner,
And the embodying male splendour of the Achaean race,
Running knowingly, rampantly, towards his death,
Let me die at once rather than by the ships, he said,
Running Hector down and embracing Paris’s fatal arrow.
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once,
Thus spake Shakespeare his quill scratching furiously
Knowing that before death, Heroes can outrun the Sun.
This is the runner’s essence - that all of human life,
The struggle to face the world and live with yourself,
The philosopher’s ultimate goal - the final acceptance of death,
To be at once at the centre of all things, and yet utterly alone,
Is a lunge toward the Godhead, to create anew on the other side.
I run to save the trees, the beauty of the bees, the storm of my sanity
Because I am the child of a dead alcoholic whose fever licks my veins.
I run, and pound and write as I am running, to save our humanity
So that once again we can remember and speak in verse,
Cuimhnígí, cuimhnígí, remember each other before its too late.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum, Veneremur cernui, et antiquum documentum,
Novo cedat ritui, Praestet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui.
In adoration falling, The sacred Host we hail,
Oe'r ancient forms departing, newer rites of grace prevail,
Faith for all defects bestowing, where the feeble senses fail.
Push on along the North Road to Cabra Gate,
It is ever here I get the overwhelming smell of gas,
A nauseous reminder of the world outside
On every run in every prayer I have ever made in this park
Have promised to call Bord Gáis yet never have.
May this poem be the source of an investigation
Into this smell like bad drains and cowboy workmen,
Redolent of the poor who are locked in estates which all face
Inwards just in case anyone started to look outside the box,
The architect smiles at me and tells me less is more.
He collected his award to applause and left for his pied a terre
In the Languedoc where he entertained his guests in the depths
Of winter, who also wore black and nodded into their dark cherry
Red bowls of wine and yes he said, less really was more.
The lines, the clarity, the solution so pure.
Whilst in the block he created, a young woman was so curious
About the continual leaks of fire, earth, water and air,
As to why this ‘Spartan democracy in the sky’ drove her to despair,
To know what was more about less, the purity of stress?
As the truth would either drive her from suicide or over the edge.
She ran to the library and found a book on Mies Van der Rohe,
Breathless now up piss and stairs, as the lifts never did work,
She fell into her bed and read the book to her utter desolation.
And as the perpetrators of this lie quaffed and laughed
She stood on the very precipice, book in hand, and jumped.
Marauding journalists ever vigilant with their massive muffled flap
Of rooks murdering all deliberation with their CAkk! CAkk CAkk!
Swooped to devour the evidence which was ripped out at a hurtling ratio
Of one chapter dissected by her sordid sex life and girder squared
And quarantined so that nobody came, saw, pondered or cared.
As my feet find a rhythm, I mouth the mantra of the designer ghouls,
Beating them out in plosive fricatives at the Hole In The Wall,
Clean Efficient, Clean Efficient, A Functional Coefficient behind
A Jacobean assassin’s mask of pseudo science to enslave our minds
Do as we say, not as we do, live in the way we have prescribed for you.
I too have heard the siren call which has mesmerized our artists,
Unleashing the spectres of minimalism and modernism upon our psyches
So that all is a free for all, our free right to fall from those walls
Of brick that flake and pock at the first winter frost
Or the grey slabs of street that rush at you from the skies.
You were unadorned and un-mourned and yet the poor
Would have attended in their thousands, had they known,
I too stood at that precipice and looked and looked and swayed
So that I missed my balance near Ashtown Gate, the first glimpse
Of the Dublin hills and an unrestricted field of vision.
The clouds bouldering and blackening behind the mountains
A dog snarling and defecating in the grass, the owner looking askance
So that I am near abandonment and just wanted the lie to end.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani - Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me!?
Only the anger in my lungs expels the oblivion of unbelief.
All seasons pass in this park of mystery and the black dog follows
Into night where all space is confounded and trees becomes gallows,
Where flits a chimera of chorus on the opposite verge
Crying the dog is my inner self and I must kneel before his image.
For he is the ghost of my amputated father's legs.
In rushes of hysteria they rail at me all the way to Castleknock,
For I reject their Freudian mantra that dreams are driven by sex,
Other visions persist, shared dreams of hope, of individual prophesy,
This very dog kicks and fits in prelingual prehistoric reveries,
There is a world of visions beyond science and psychiatry.
A dream can trick, was not Agamemnon fooled at his beaked ships?
Or, the dream of a people can dispel an Empire’s writ,
I will not be press ganged onto the Ego ghost trip
Where the raving sub conscious is raised as skull and cross bones,
A soulless barque adrift in the dog day seas of modernism.
A shout greets me, an old man hailing with his stick,
The greeting of strangers, one of the great joys of this city,
He is tall and handsome and boasts a bruise like a facial war wound
I read in his lines the mugging in a heaving shopping mall
That lost him some money, but mostly his pride at the fall.
Nobody ran to help and they were so young, but hunt in packs,
I jump a puddle and see in its reflection our people cracked,
By a growing callousness tantamount to evil,
The effete Irish intelligentsia retreating behind gazing navels,
Peeping spy holes, call alarms and exclusive neighbourhoods.
The free market mantra has done what eight hundred years never could.
Now we despise the old, the poor, immigrants, the Gaeilgeoir
And who will chastise the youth now that taboos are a game?
An old man is mugged, a woman plummets to her grave
Yet a multitude of shoppers just stood and dazed.
The old man waves to the driver-ants milling at the Gate
Who pronounce him clearly mad, an alcoholic with a busted face
And return to the consoling world of tailback traffic
Static fumes to kill the trees, and disc jockey inanities,
And all the cars are grey and not one ever moved.
The runner sees them all in their thousand petrol heads
Who go to war for Bush and Blair and the right to burn lead.
Millions of cars secreting an air, sighing status status status,
As the drivers belch and burp from junk food on the run,
They are fat, they are debauched, they are Irish every one.
These are the Pope's children, the new elite we are told,
Of babyboomers having a blast, like blazing missiles in Iraq,
Daedalus and Icarus across our skies, teens falling like flies,
Hung by their commuter belts in massive estates called Dingly Rise,
Where no shops are, no space to play, no place to die.
The Rich have turned for help to Freud and psychoanalysis,
Yet for free I can advise that their only neurosis is their avarice,
Their boredom with hoarding their mountains of unearned wealth,
Their suppression of the human need to think, reflect,
Their doomed first class flight from the non material, from Death.
Emerging from the pall of Styx to the reflections of bright Moon,
I am suddenly a Trinity of shadows running back to a future past
And the mist cushioning my footfall in the night run beauty.
Tá mé chomh aosta leis an ceo, chomh sean leis na cnoic
Chomh luath le giorria, chomh sásta le píobaire, chomh uasal le rí.
A fellow runner passes by, I know her only by her fragrance,
A revelation to me that women run in their adornments,
Amber pearls light my egress in loops of soft pale lamps
Her distance covered more quickly, yet time is still, constant,
She is my womb of dark and light, my mother, sister, my Goddess.
The present is but a fleeting glimpse formed by who and what
Has passed in the sweat, joy and anguish of the imminent
And the bells will ring and images will be raised eternally.
For the poor of all races will cling to the sanctity
Of the loved and the lost and the miracle of the incarnate.
Mar féach, déarfaidh na glúine uile feasta gur méanar dom.
Óir rinne an Té atá cumhachtach
Nithe móra dom agus is naofa a ainm.
Agus tá a thrócaire ó ghlúin go glúin,
dóibh seo ar a mbíonn a eagla.
Móraim mo ainm an Tiarna and my spirit has rejoiced
In God my saviour and it is here that we will worship.
This vault of sky and shade of tree is the new Temple of Christ
Now that Peter’s rock has been shattered by its acolytes
Sullied and besmirched by profane abuse and evil vanity.
Scaip sé an dream a bhí uaibhreach i smaointe a gcroí.
Leag sé prionsaí óna gcathaoireacha
agus d'ardaigh sé daoine ísle.
Líon sé lucht an ocrais le nithe maithe
agus chuir sé na saibhre uaidh folamh.
All around me is light and the communion of my dead ancestors
And their incantations for my dying father who writhes
In limbless agony at the dying of his light and yet with
Each pound of my heart, each bead of sweat, his terror
Eases in the state of grace that is forgiveness and release.
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, come on Dad, get up Dad!
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, big breaths Dad, nearly there Dad
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, now get off that bed and walk Dad
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, get out of that hole and fly Dad
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, fly away Dad on the wings of an angel.
Come now to the spreading shade of my ancient sentinel, the Tree,
For your affliction has left you and you stand restored
Amongst the heavenly hosts who are washed and cleansed
In the river of words and deeds of the people who called to me,
And this miracle they believed and worked for thee.
this miracle they believed and worked for thee.
And the son of a son
Who had run and run
Before his wide embrace.
Poem written in gratitude after Mass at St Teresa’s (Carmelites Discalced) Clarendon Street, Dublin, on Friday the 16th of December 2004.
(NB – Discalced = no shoes or wearing sandals)
There is no time for this
Yet its ancient call still persists.
Clarion in the early winter air,
A call to think, a call to prayer.
Eternity resounding, echoing in the heart of mammon
Where, the aftertone of each Angelus bell
From St Teresa’s Church
Reveals tongue flames of angels
Amongst dazed and frenzied shoppers
Who turn and look there and there and there
Straining to hear something nearly forgotten
Above the raucous roll and rail of closing shop shutters
And they astounded with no shoes on their feet.
And all burdens, fears and pretensions
Falling like confetti to the floor
With each soft caress from an angels wing
Like so many marionettes
No longer pulled by purse strings
They stand suddenly naked souls
Before God and each other.
In quickly quiet Grafton Street
There is but one last minute must buy can’t wait feat
The call to look to yourself and be at peace
Do Dogs Dream of a Canine Oedipus? Some questions for Sigmund Frued and pseudo analysts everywhere(Author's note - a shorter version of this blog was one of the first articles in "Cic Saor " but was missed by most people because of the switch in address during the first week in the life of "Cic Saor")
Now that 2006 is upon us, Austria is preparing large scale celebrations to commemorate the birth of Sigmund Freud on the 6th of May 1856. Freud was actually born in Moravia which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but his family moved to Vienna when he was still a young child. It is this blogger's view that Freud's huge influence on western society has been primarily a negative one. Freud and his subsequent disciples have overstressed, pun intended, the importance of the subconscious and bear some of the responsibility for the rampant individualism and self centred approach to living that we can see all around us today. In short, Freud has been instrumental in undermining age old collective solidarity and support structures which were especially prevalent in Celtic and aboriginal societies. One example of this is the deaf ear and lack of respect that society shows to older people - the very constituency which provided most support and advice in ancient societies. The wisdom of the old has been replaced by television evangelists and soothsayers and radio sound bites not fit for a dog.
Do Dogs Dream of a Canine Oedipus?
In Greek mythology, Oedipus was the son of Jocasta and Laius. Laius was the king of Thebes who was killed by his own son Oedipus who then married his own mother. Oedipus did all this unwittingly and then put out his own eyes when discovering what he had done. If all that was not bad enough, Oedipus and his story, redolent with sexual guilt and jealousy, was then adopted many many lunar cycles later as a corner stone of western European psychoanalysis. I have it on good authority from a dead relative who met Oedipus on the way up the heavenly stairs to a party, (they are all having a good time now and Oedipus doesn’t need a white stick anymore) that he is more upset about the damage Sigmund Freud and his acolytes have done in his name than the carnage inflicted on his Mam and Dad all those centuries ago.
Now my heavenly relative and informant who talks to me a lot, trócaire Dé ar a hanam, got me thinking as you can imagine. For she used to have a black dog (called King) and King would lie in front of the coal fire and not move until his belly began to roast. I would always watched transfixed for the moment just before he moved as the tufts of hair on his belly would start to smoke and then he would give out a yelp and run out to the permanent cool of the scullery. Fascinating you say, but what has Oedipus…? Yes I know. The point is that once settled under the sink in the scullery and the cooling steam rising from his legs, King would invariably start to dream. All children love watching dogs dream, their legs go round and round like a demented wound up toy, and they whimper and yap to themselves until they realise that they have not been fed for at least an hour and jump up with a start. Now, the Oedipus complex so beloved of psychoanalysts, where a male child’s alleged phallic identification with his father conflicts with his sexual desire for his mother, is supposed to be played out in our subsequent life in our social relationships with others and in our dreams. If this is true, does this mean that our King was dreaming incestuously about his mother? And if not why not?
I think we’ve been sold a total bum steer where dreams are concerned and you wouldn’t blame Oedipus for getting upset about it. Freud’s analysis of dreams were all language based yet King and all the other dogs I’ve met in my life have never spoken one word to me. Also because of Freud and his cohorts, we have become inured to the idea that dreams only ever look backward, yet up until very recently dreams were things of prophesy. Dream as tairngreacht or tuar (prophesy) and foretelling are especially strong in Celtic cultures. A tuar trócaire, for example is an augury of mercy. Then there is the collective dream. We as a people can have a dream of a new dawn, a dream for our language for example which can be precisely expressed and acted upon by a large number of people at the same time. Finally, Freudian psychoanalyst, as far as I am aware, never take into account the social and contemporary surroundings of their patients. Many of Sigmund Freud’s own patients for example were middle class German Jews and it would have been amazing of they had not been dreaming about their private parts and assorted limbs falling off, as the Nazi party grew from strength to strength after 1933 in the run up to Kristallnacht in 1938.
(The academic and philosopher George Steiner raised some of these arguments against Freud in his book "No Passion Spent")