Monday, May 01, 2006

ERIN GO BRAGH!

But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light might shine through the foggy dew
--"Foggy Dew", Traditional

Yesterday marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the Easter Rising in Dublin.

Some background: In 1916, the British had been ruling Ireland for hundreds of years. By the early twentieth century the Irish had seen their language all but wiped out, most of their freedom taken away; they had sugffered through the potato famine, which killed a third of the population and drove another third away; by 1916 the spirit of the Irish people was all but broken.

But a group of young men, idealistic college students, poets, and revolutionaries, determined not to let this happen. They gathered in Dublin, and the movement for Irish freedom centered around a man named Padraig Pearse. He was a poet, and did not relish fighting save as a last resort. But when it became clear that their politically lodged protests were being ignored (as they had been for hundreds of years), the leaders of the resistance movement decided there was nothing left save to rebel.

An enterprise like this was difficult to arrange under freindly circumstances; the Irish are so naturally tribal that they are prone to split over minor issues, and there were several instances of political leaders forming breakaway groups that hindered planning. But the planning was completed (as well as possible at any rate, for an illegal group with low funds). The Rebellion was set for Easter, 1916.

On April 24, a few hundred Irishmen in and around Dublin took over the city and faced down the might of the British Empire. They held out, fighting tenaciously for one week, before thousands of British soldiers invaded the city and ended the rebellion. Most of its leaders, including Padraig Pearse, were shot.

It appeared the last real hope of Irish independance was snuffed out. But in executing the rebellion's leaders, the Briitish had created martyrs, heroes that no living man could match. Popular opinion began to swing to various nationalist movements. By 1922 there was another rebellion, and 26 of Ireland's 32 counties were independant.

The themes of this rebellion--desire for freedom, a nation for one's people, etc--run deep not only with the Irish but with all people. Padraig Pearse and his freedom fighters are some of my heroes.

The traditional song "Foggy Dew" commemorates the Easter Rising, and pays better tribute than I could.

As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There Armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No fife did hum nor battle drum did sound it's dread tatoo
But the Angelus bell o'er the Liffey swell rang out through the foggy dew

Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war'
Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud El Bar
And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through
While Britannia's Huns, with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew

'Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Sulva's waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse's side or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep 'neath the shroud of the foggy dew

But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light might shine through the foggy dew

Ah, back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I'd kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, When you fell in the foggy dew.

3 comments:

Sir Darth Merlin Bilbollum Finn said...

Neat history. I've always loved the Irish, but I've a bit of Scotch-Irish in my background, so historically, we were against them. Stupid ancestors.

Ethan said...

Oh aye, the trooblmakkers they were, caused all the trooble in the north... Ah well. What would Ireland be without a bit of conflict? They would nae know what to do.

Sir Darth Merlin Bilbollum Finn said...

Aye.