Let me just say this up front: I respect the hell out of the Irish. I don't think there's a group in history that can equal the per capita contribution to culture and civilization that the Irish have had.
All-around great guy and expert in lots of things R. Sherman pointed out how Irish monks were instrumental in saving western civilization. It is said that when Charlemagne was expanding his empire, he imported Irish monks to be his scribes due to their high literacy.
But the contributions go beyond this. It seems like all the Irish are painters, authors, poets or musicians -- or a little bit of each.
And while I'd like to be able to associate myself with this heritage -- I do have ancestors who came here from Ireland -- my Black Irish blood has been so diluted over the years by various British, German, and other European nationalities (except for those freaky-deaky Dutch!) that I could hardly be called anything other than American at this point.
Besides, I think I've just had it too good to honestly claim to be Irish. And that's not meant to be an offense to real Irish people. Like I said, I respect the hell out of them. It's just that I think all of the great art that comes out of Ireland is the natural response to the hardships the country has faced throughout its history.
If you subscribe to the view -- as I am beginning to more and more -- that great art comes from pain and suffering, then its no surprise that the Irish are so artistically prolific.
The history of Ireland is tragic and bloody more often that it's not. Viking pillaging, British massacres, religious discrimination and systematic subjugation, poverty, famine -- all of this tragedy seems to have been bred into the very bloodlines of the Irish.
Still, when someone comes up to you, particularly on St. Patrick's Day, and says "Luck o' the Irish to ye!" you're supposed to take that as some kind of pleasantry.
Luck of the Irish to me? What the hell did I do to deserve that?
tagged: Ireland, Irish, art, culture, St. Patrick's Day, Charlemagne, Yeats