“Through winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges sing
Declare that winter’s best of all;
And after that there’s nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come—
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.”
The Wheel - W.B. Yeats
Available June 2015
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death is a poem by Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) written in 1918 and first published in the Macmillan edition of The Wild Swans at Coole in 1919.
The poem is a soliloquy given by an aviator in the First World War in which the narrator describes the circumstances surrounding his imminent death. The poem is a work that discusses the role of Irish soldiers fighting for the United Kingdom during a time when they were trying to establish independence for Ireland. Wishing to show restraint from publishing political poems during the height of the war, Yeats withheld publication of the poem until after the conflict had ended.
The airman in the poem is widely believed to be Major Robert Gregory, a friend of Yeats and the only child of Lady Augusta Gregory.
The poem contains 16 lines of text arranged in iambic quatrameter. The rhyme scheme is arranged in four quatrains of ABAB.
The aviator, of whom Yeats writes as in the first person, is convinced that the flight he is about to take will be his last, and he thinks of why he has chosen to fly. He flies for different reasons than most, not out of sense of duty or patriotism, nor for prestige or for those he has left behind. He reasons that he made his decision on the basis that his life so far has not compared to the thrill of annihilation, and can see nothing to convince him that his life to come will do any better.
William Robert Gregory MC was the only child of William Henry Gregory and Lady Gregory, an associate of W. B. Yeats, Robert was born in County Galway in Ireland in May 1881. He studied at Harrow, New College, Oxford and the Slade School of Art he excelled at bowls, boxing, horse riding and cricket. He was good enough at cricket to play once for the Ireland cricket team, taking 8/80 with his leg spin bowling in a first-class match against Scotland in 1912. He didn't score a run. His bowling performance in that match remains the tenth best in all matches for Ireland and the fourth best in first-class cricket for Ireland. His bowling average of 10.22 is the second best for Ireland in first-class cricket.
An accomplished artist, he worked in the design studio of Jacques Émile Blanche, and had his own exhibition of paintings in Chelsea in 1914. The following year, he joined the war effort, becoming a member of the 4th Connaught Rangers, transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. He became a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1917, and was awarded a Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty."
He was killed in Italy at the age of 36 when an Italian pilot mistakenly shot him down
Robert's death had a lasting effect on W. B. Yeats, and he became the subject of four poems by him; In Memory of Major Robert Gregory, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, Shepherd and Goatherd, and Reprisals.
By Jeanne Leong
Interest in Irish studies increased at Penn in the 1980s as the territorial conflict that began in 1968 continued over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.
The University began offering world affairs courses that focused on Irish history and society, as well as a noncredit course on Irish culture.
In 1981, the lord mayors of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Dublin, Ireland, came to Penn as part of their U.S. tour of East Coast cities with the charity Co-operation North, a non-political and non-denominational organization that worked to promote reconciliation between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Lord Mayor John Carson of Belfast (pictured, left) and Lord Mayor Fergus O’Brien of Dublin (middle), wearing ornamented sashes over their dark suits, joined Brendan O’Regan (right), the chairman of Co-operation North at a luncheon with Penn administrators and faculty. O’Regan, an Irish businessman, founded the organization in 1979 to help direct exchanges in tourism, trade, energy, and education. The charity is now known as Co-operation Ireland.
After the meeting, the lord mayors and O’Regan spoke with the media, stating that they were on a mission of good will.
“It is a movement based on economics and social matters,” said O’Regan.
“We hope to inform the American public that there is a strong will to live peacefully together … that there is something tangible happening,” O’Brien said.
One year after their visit, the University of Pennsylvania Press published a book titled, “Irish Folk History: Tales from the North” by Henry Glassie, the former head of Penn’s Folklore and Folklife Department. In the fall of 1982, Penn offered a course on Irish traditional music taught by Mary Ellen Cohane.
Since the 1980s, Penn has added many other courses in Irish studies, some of which are still being offered, including Irish literature, politics, and culture, as well as examinations and analyses of the 30-year conflict from 1968-1998 known as “The Troubles.”
For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online
“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” Endgame
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
If there is one question I dread,
to which I have never been able to invent a satisfactory reply,
it is the question what am I doing.
“Beckett’s lectures indicate he found paradigms of indeterminacy and incoherence early in the history of the French novel, specifically in the school of the ‘Pre-Naturalists’. Flaubert and Stendhal were his models in this regard, and were given the compliment of being the ‘real ancestors of the modern novel’. What is most important about these writers is that through engaging with the multiple facets of reality through a numbers of modes and perspectives, their work leaves ‘some material indeterminate’. In contrast to Proust’s vision of aesthetic consolation and transcendence, there is ‘No such solution in Stendhal’.”— Josh Bolin, Beckett and the Modern Novel
There is grey in your hair.
Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath
When you are passing;
But maybe some old gaffer mutters a blessing
Because it was your prayer
Recovered him upon the bed of death.
For your sole sake—that all heart’s ache have known,
And given to others all heart’s ache,
From meagre girlhood’s putting on
Burdensome beauty—for your sole sake
Heaven has put away the stroke of her doom,
So great her portion in that peace you make
By merely walking in a room.
Your beauty can but leave among us
Vague memories, nothing but memories.
A young man when the old men are done talking
Will say to an old man, ‘Tell me of that lady
The poet stubborn with his passion sang us
When age might well have chilled his blood.’
Vague memories, nothing but memories,
But in the grave all, all, shall be renewed.
The certainty that I shall see that lady
Leaning or standing or walking
In the first loveliness of womanhood,
And with the fervour of my youthful eyes,
Has set me muttering like a fool.
You are more beautiful than any one
And yet your body had a flaw:
Your small hands were not beautiful,
And I am afraid that you will run
And paddle to the wrist
In that mysterious, always brimming lake
Where those that have obeyed the holy law
Paddle and are perfect; leave unchanged
The hands that I have kissed
For old sakes’ sake.
The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in the one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.”
International conference explores links between two major Irish writers
This year’s annual James Joyce Italian Foundation conference in Rome on 2-3 February is entitled Yeats, Joyce and the Revival.
The international conference marks the year-long international celebration of the life and works of the Nobel Prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats, on the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1865.
Among many other things the conference will go beyond the following anecdote about the two Irish writers: Yeats was already a well-established literary figure when, in October 1902, he met Joyce for the first time. At the end of their exchange Joyce asked Yeats how old he was. Yeats said he was 38 (he was actually 39) but Joyce replied: “I thought as much. I have met you too late. You are too old.”
The conference will show that this is far from the whole story and explore the many connections between these two great figures of Irish and of world literature within the context of the Irish Literary Revival.
The speakers are from Italy, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Singapore, Turkey, Georgia, the US and Brazil, and will include Prof. Matthew Campbell (University of York) and associate director of the Annual Yeats Summer School; Fritz Senn, director of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation; Barry McCrea, University of Notre Dame; Ronan Crowley (University of Passau).
For further information see website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Bilingual author of 24 books is also a regular Irish Times reviewer
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne: “It’s a great honour and a great delight to receive this award from Irish PEN and to find myself in such illustrious company as Edna O’Brien, Maeve Binchy, Jennifer Johnston and Frank McGuinness.”
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is to receive the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature 2015. The Award will be presented at the Irish PEN annual dinner on Friday, February 20th, at the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dún Laoghaire.
Speaking today, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne said: “It’s a great honour and a great delight to receive this award from Irish PEN and to find myself in such illustrious company as Edna O’Brien, Maeve Binchy, Jennifer Johnston and Frank McGuinness.”
Irish PEN is the Centre in Ireland for PEN, an international association of writers which promotes literature and defends freedom of expression. Anyone can sign the PEN Charter on rishpen.com and associate membership is open to all. Full membership is open to all qualified writers who sign the charter. PEN, which stands for poets, playwrights, editors, essayists and novelists, is a non-political organisation with special consultative status at Unesco and the United Nations. Founded in 1921, it has from its earliest days in Ireland been associated with Lady Gregory, WB Yeats, and Lord Longford. The President of Irish PEN is the playwright Brian Friel.
In 1998 Irish PEN set up an award to honour an Irish writer who has made an outstanding contribution to Irish literature. This award is for a significant body of work, written and produced over a number of years, and is open to novelists, playwrights, poets, and scriptwriters. Full and associate members of Irish PEN, as well as previous winners, nominate and vote for the candidate.
The 2015 award trophy is sponsored by the national online writing magazine & resources website writing.ie founded by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of the Inkwell Group
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne was born in Dublin in 1954 and is a graduate of UCD. She studied Pure English for the BA, doing an M Phil in Middle English and Old Irish, and finishing in 1982 with a PhD in Folklore. From 1978-9 she studied at the Folklore Institute in the University of Copenhagen as a research scholar, while researching her doctoral thesis.
She published her first story in the New Irish Writing Page in the Irish Press, in 1974. Her first book was published in 1988, Blood and Water, and since then she has written about 24 books, including novels, collections of short stories, several books for children, plays and non-fiction works. She writes in both Irish and English, and is a regular reviewer for The Irish Times.
She has won several awards including the Bisto Book of the Year Award, the Readers’ Association of Ireland Award, the Stewart Parker Award for Drama, the Butler Award for Prose from the Irish American Cultural Institute and several Oireachtas awards for novels and plays in Irish. The novel The Dancers Dancing was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her stories are widely anthologized and translated. Her latest novel for young people, Dordán, was published in autumn 2010, and the last collection of short stories, The Shelter of Neighbours, was published in 2012. She was elected to Aosdána in 2004.
Previous winners of the Irish PEN Award:
1999 John B.Keane
2000 Brian Friel
2001 Edna O’Brien
2002 William Trevor
2003 John McGahern
2004 Neil Jordan
2005 Seamus Heaney
2006 Jennifer Johnston
2007 Maeve Binchy
2008 Thomas Kilroy
2009 Roddy Doyle
2010 Brendan Kennelly
2011 Colm Tóibín
2012 Joseph O’Connor
2013 John Banville
2014 Frank McGuinness