Thomas McCarthy – Garden of Remembrance – A Poet’s Rising

The Garden of Remembrance is dedicated
‘to all those who gave their lives in the cause
of Irish Freedom.’ It was opened in 1966 on the site created from the uppermost fifth of the Rotunda Gardens It was in these gardens that the Volunteers were founded by Eoin MacNeill on 25 November 1913 The Garden was designed by Dáití Hanly, winner of the public competition
that was announced in 1946, although the project was not completed
until the 50th anniversary of the Rising. Hanly later became
Dublin city architect The main focal point of the garden is a bronze
statue of the Children of Lir by Oisín Kelly, which was added in 1971 This extraordinary vision of painful birth was controversial in its day, for drawing on legends considered to be pagan In May 2011, during her state visit to Ireland,
Queen Elizabeth the second laid a wreath at the
Garden of Remembrance in a gesture of reconciliation. Thomas McCarthy was born and raised at Cappoquin
Co. Waterford in 1954. He has published a substantial body of poems as well as a collection of autobiographical essays and
two novels. McCarthy is a poet primarily concerned with
politics and family and he is regarded as one of the most important
Irish poets of his generation. These stones report for duty
in story after story, The garden a cistern of unsweetened water;
Time’s patina burnished by an effort to remember, Such effort renewed at each national anniversary
Where sea-gulls glide over the field of slaughter To uncover another trail of poems. Time is a hoarder
That gathers us together behind the box hedge To remember glory, to define a lost cause Or a cause renewed at the hour of remembrance. We remember our prayers and the seagull’s rage, So careful now – now so conscious of the past – That we may not create yet more victims. What lasts
In a Republic is the living, and so in this age
I remember the living on this cold, grassy ledge. Our remembrance is a form of theatre, as each
Remembrance is, in every nation. An eternal flame
Burns elsewhere and cenotaphs hold heroic names; Remnants of us pepper each Normandy beach And Poppies grow up out of our bones. But here I think of the one nation the poets imagined
And think again of the two states we’re in, A state of mystical borders and broken spears
Left by a silent procession of things left unsaid. It’s not that our cowardice has deepened; or not Cowardice, not that, but an indifference yet Unchallenged,
an indifference to the innocent dead That creeps along the wall of memory, as moss
Or ivy muffle traffic noise or mask all heroic loss. A shuffle of wet tiles, history’s lovely aquamarine – All the weapons lie abandoned after battle
Like the leaves of Sessile Oak, Dair Ghaelach, That scatter in a sudden burst of wind. We seem
Drawn to history, fatally, the way troubled
Families want to pace across the same old ground In the hope of comfort from what comes round. I find an empty bench where history doubled
Back and came to life in a fantasia of warm metal; Oisín Kelly’s mythic swan children now seem Like children abandoned in refugee-camp
or great famine, Arms hanging loosely in great bronze petals – After all the Troubles,
politics wants to make peace with art. But memory is immovable in a stiff breeze. James Connolly’s beautiful life,
the high aesthetic Of Pearse, The gift of three buttons from
Con Colbert’s Volunteer uniform, Thomas MacDonagh’s verse – Listen, in this remembering place I pick
Strange names to add to the forgotten dead: Willie Redmond explaining how at the Ulster line In front of Ploegstreet the Southerners arrived
And words of love between two Irelands were said Before slaughter followed the young. And Harold Mooney of the RAMC,
his shattered left thigh, Should remind us of how the unsung are left to die In a free state of dying slowly. All their untold Stories haunt me still.
Permit me to remember the dead On the wrong side of revolution,
the part they played. Mothers from another continent come here to rest. Memory is a kind of cradle.
Memory is a giant beech In a sunlit meadow. I watch a new migrant
child reach Into this restored reflecting-pool, his outline traced
In a cruciform pool of disturbed shadows. What can he know,
This child of worldly exile, of the purpose Of this city centre park? How can you or I propose
A better Ireland, a safer shelter in the quiet meadow? Here in this Irish world, in the last place where God Found us useful, we have a duty to make a nest – Not an ill-advised pageant or a national barricade. When the midday sun breaks through,
my eyes rest On harp and acorn,
on trumpet and bronze hands, On things a family without our history understands.

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