She knew them by their thick woven cloaks, their hanging hair and beards, and their Anglisc voices: words drumming like apples spilt over wooden boards, round, rich, stirring. Like her father’s words, and her mother’s, and her sister’s. Utterly unlike Onnen’s otter-swift British or the dark liquid gleam of Irish. Hild spoke each to each. Apples to apples, otter to otter, gleam to gleam, though only when her mother wasn’t there.
Thady begins his memoirs of the Rackrent Family by dating MONDAY MORNING, because no great undertaking can be auspiciously commenced in Ireland on any morning but MONDAY MORNING. 'Oh, please God we live till Monday morning, we'll set the slater to mend the roof of the house. On Monday morning we'll fall to, and cut the turf. On Monday morning we'll see and begin mowing. On Monday morning, please your honour, we'll begin and dig the potatoes,' etc.All the intermediate days, between the making of such speeches and the ensuing Monday, are wasted: and when Monday morning comes, it is ten to one that the business is deferred to THE NEXT Monday morning. The Editor knew a gentleman, who, to counteract this prejudice, made his workmen and labourers begin all new pieces of work upon a Saturday.
The Celt, and his cromlechs, and his pillar-stones, these will not change much – indeed, it is doubtful if anybody at all changes at any time. In spite of hosts of deniers, and asserters, and wise-men, and professors, the majority still are adverse to sitting down to dine thirteen at a table, or being helped to salt, or walking under a ladder, of seeing a single magpie flirting his chequered tale. There are, of course, children of light who have set their faces against all this, although even a newspaperman, if you entice him into a cemetery at midnight, will believe in phantoms, for everyone is a visionary, if you scratch him deep enough. But the Celt, unlike any other, is a visionary without scratching.
The History of Ireland in two words: Ah well. The Invasion by the Vikings: Ah well. The Invasion by the Normans. The Flight of the Earls, Mr Oliver Cromwell. Daniel O’Connell, Robert Emmett, The Famine, Charles Stewart Parnell, Easter Rising, Michael Collins, Éamon De Valera, Éamon De Valera again (Dear Germany, so sorry to learn of the death of your Mr Hitler), Éamon De Valera again, the Troubles, the Tribunals, the Fianna Fáil Party, The Church, the Banks, the eight hundred years of rain: Ah well. In the Aeneid Virgil tells it as Sunt lacrimae rerum, which in Robert Fitzgerald’s translation means ‘They weep for how the world goes’, which is more eloquent than Ah well but means the same thing.
What followed was a great treat for me. This was Irish traditional music as I had hoped to see and hear it, spontaneous and from the heart, and not produced for the sake of the tourist industry. As I sat there with my pint in my hand, enjoying the jigs and the reels, I watched the joy in the player’s faces and in those around them who tapped their feet and applauded enthusiastically. Music the joybringer. No question of being paid, or any requirement to perform for a certain amount of time. Just play for as long as it makes you feel good. This was self expression, not performance. Someone would begin playing a tune and the fellow musicians would listen to it once through, hear how it went and join in when they felt comfortable, until, on its last run through, it was being played with gusto by the entire ensemble. This process provided each piece with the dynamic of a natural crescendo which could almost have been orchestrated.