Thursday, January 26, 2006

243. Joe McInerney (1916)

Who fears to speak
Of Easter Week?

Twas late that morning
and I was just coming off
my shift, when suddenly,
who should rise up before me
but young Jimmy Docherty
in crisp unaccustomed
splendour: Jayzus, Jim,
where in the name
of all that's holy
did ye ever come by
that ... that uniform?

All bought and paid for,
says Jim with a grin,
amn't I after paying
two shillin's a week
to the Countess, like.
Ah, the Countess, says I,
would that be yer wan?
O, the very article.
Fierce woman, I'm told.
O, dreadful indeed.
No chance of a look-in?
Haha, laughs Jimmy,
put the thought behind you,
la di feckin da!

Ah, the likes of them, says I,
but what has yourself
abroad, so resplendent,
on this fine Easter Monday?
Tis a parade, says Jimmy,
ourselves and the Volunteers,
a march from Liberty Hall
with a stop at the GPO.
One in the eye to the English,
says I, here in the midst
of their great big war?
God send they lose,
says he with a serious look.
Sure, let them all get kilt,
says I, more power to them,
the less o' them the better.

Is that what you believe,
says Jimmy, half smiling.
Well, and why wouldn't I?
Will you come with me so?
Where to? Around the corner,
a leisurely stroll to the GPO.
Ten minutes will do me no harm,
says I, then it's home to the flat,
to the rashers and sausages.
O Jayz, you're a fearful man
for the feed, says Jimmy.

Is that a real rifle, says I,
or just a bloody good imitation?
O, tis real enough, says he,
with real bullets inside it.
Down with the British Empire!
says I with a happy grin.
Upon which the sun never sets,
answers Jim with a laugh.
For God, we roared out together,
won't trust them in the dark!
Well, tis a fine day for it,
says I ; O, today, says Jim,
is a day that will live forever!
Are ye cracked or what, man,
today will run its course
much the same as any other:
the gentry will go out to the races,
and I’ll go home to me tea,
and we'll wake up tomorrow
under the same oul' Union Jack.

We might, says Jimmy,
and, then again, we might not.
But will ye look over there!
Who in the name of Jayzus,
says I, is that precious article?
Tis Patrick Pearse, says he,
known to himself if none other
as “Padraig O Piarsach” in Irish .
Go ‘way! Aye, the very man,
says he, some half-caste English
sleveen, teaching the Irish nation
how to be even more Irish; sure,
isn’t that the way of them, boyo?
See yer man there, have a gander,
shaking at the knees, suppressing
his Southside accent, reading out
the Proclamation of the Republic!

A peculiar chill came over me,
as slim icy fingers of apprehension
clutched at my heart: Jim, says I,
is this an act, or is it the real M'Coy?
Tis as real as ye like, Joe, says he.
I’ll be leaving ye now, so good luck,
and get yourself home to your tea.
Will ye hang on a sec, Jimmy …!
I watched as he crossed the road:
the windows were being smashed in
and an armed company of soldiers,
Volunteers and Citizen Army,
came to a crashing halt, broke ranks,
and rushed into the building.

I hesitated, sorely puzzled,
then slowly and reluctantly,
started to walk away:
I had gone three steps
when I rushed in after them.

This is a form of dialogue poem based on actual events in Dublin at Easter 1916. Here are some notes and links for the interested:

'the Countess' - Countess Constance Markiewicz, doyenne of the Citizen Army

the GPO - General Post Office, the main Dublin post office on O'Connell Street and HQ of the rebellion.

Liberty Hall - HQ of the main Dublin trade unions.

For general background on the Easter Rising, check the following links:
dublinerinjapan, BBC History, Easter 1916

Finally, a commemorative poem by WB Yeats: