Friday, August 17, 2007

"see Sackville Street/ Without the sandbags in the old photos"

"Park your car in Killarney, buy a souvenir
Of green marble or black bog-oak, run up to Clare,
Climb the cliff in the postcard, visit Galway city,
Romanticize on our Spanish blood, leave ten per cent of pity
Under your plate for the emigrant,
Take credit for our sanctity, our heroism and our sterile want
Columba Kevin and briny Brendan the accepted names,
Wolfe Tone and Grattan and Michael Collins the accepted names,
Admire the suavity with which the architect
Is rebuilding the burnt mansion, recollect
The palmy days of the Horse Show, swank your fill,
But take the Holyhead boat before you pay the bill;
Before you face the consequence
Of inbred soul and climactic maleficence
And pay for the trick beauty of a prism
In drug-dull fatalism.
I will exorcize my blood
And not to have my baby-clothes my shroud
I will acquire an attitude not yours
And become as one of your holiday visitors,
And however often I may come
Farewell, my country, and in perpetuum

-- MacNeice, from "Valediction" (Jan 1934)

So I am back, ready for a scouring by Mr. MacNeice. Postcards have arrived in your mailboxes sooner than I thought they would, mailed from the GPO where began the 1916 uprising. There is now one ATM on the Aran Islands, despite what the "Lonely Planet" will tell you about the need to line your pockets before you grab the ferry. We tourists arrive loaded and, once we see the ATM, go sweater-mad and return to the mainland wool-laden, like it was shearing season. Nothing "lonely" about it, as MacNeice is ruefully aware (the sublime "incorrigibly plural" in his important poem "Snow"). I'll write more on MacNeice later today (Muldoon does love him, I love him, all should love him cause he's fabulous).

I don't know where to begin with recommending MacNeice: rather than Autumn Journal, I think you might even get more out of a few poems from Poems (1935) and The Earth Compels (1938), and a few of what Edna Longley calls the "nightmare nursery-rhymes" that appear in his late The Burning Perch (1963).