It’s often said that the Irish have the gift of the gab and there is definitely a kernel of truth to that. We’re a nation of poets and storytellers, of dreamers and truth-tellers. Irish poetry is renowned the world over for its lovely prose and heartfelt messages, which is what we are going to spotlight here today. These famous poetry quotes are a testament to that.
Poetry can often be a way of expressing profound, simple, uncomfortable or even necessary truths. Across the span of time and generations, these words can transcend the cultural barrier of interminable change and connect with us in ways the original authors may have never even dreamt of.
Let us take a look at some of them now.
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell the truth.”
A famous poet and playwright from Dublin city, Wilde was known for his razor-sharp wit and belief in the pursuit of art for its beauty alone. He was also known for his personal sense of style and numerous social scandals, most of which pertaining to his homosexuality.
While the man dies decades before the advent of social media, this quote reminds us of how online anonymity can be a blessing and a curse. Allowing people to act without the thought of social consequence, which can often lead to abuse and harassment.
W. B. Yeats
“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
Another Dublin poet and writer, Yeats is often considered to be one of the key figures of 20th century literature. Yeats was fascinated by matters pertaining to Irish mythology and the occult, which would feature frequently in his work.
It’s easy to link his quote about the abiding sense of tragedy that he found to be inherent in Irish nature. The advent of modern technology has allowed us all to be aware of the world like never before, and it can be overwhelming to take stock of the sheer amount of bad news being turned out on a daily basis. It can be easy to give in to despair, which is why it’s so important to take care of your mental health!
“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”
A poet, novelist and literary critic, Joyce is remembered in the same pedigree of writers as Yeats and is remembered for his contributions to the modernist avant-garde movement. While born in Dunlin Joyce spent much of his life living abroad. Joyce is perhaps best known for penning Ulysses, a recapping of the adventures of Homer from The Odyssey.
It can be easy to feel that the past is dead and buried but the truth is rather the opposite. The present is built from the past and old issues are always closer than they may seem at first glance. Any student of history can tell you how the state of the world today is just the latest domino in a chain of actions, and that to fully understand the present one must first study the past. Proving that the past is never that far away.
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
“When you look out across the fields
And you both see the same star
Pitching its tent on the point of the steeple
That is the time to set out on your journey,
With half a loaf and your mother’s blessing.”
Ní Chuilleanáin held the prestigious position of the Ireland Professor of Poetry, an academic chair entrusted by multiple institutions. Ní Chuilleanáin’s works have won multiple awards and some of her poems are currently on the syllabus for Leaving Certificate students. Unlike some others on this list, Ní Chuilleanáin is a more modern example of a renowned Irish poet.
Ní Chuilleanáin words here can stand as a reminder for us that while we may all hail from different countries, cultures and backgrounds, we still share the same night sky. As the world continues to grapple with refugees and displaced people it is important to remember that the road towards prosperity starts with walking toward one another, being guided by the same stars.
“We are not alone in our loneliness, others have been here and known griefs we thought our special own.”
An Irish poet and novelist, Kavanagh is best known for how his works draw reference from the mundane aspects of everyday Irish life.
Living with Covid for the last few years has been tough for everyone. We’ve all lost someone, and we’ve all lost parts of ourselves. Kavanagh’s words then should stand as a reminder that we are not alone in our grief. That while we may feel isolated at times, we are in fact all united by our shared pain and desire for healing. So we should reach for each other, and not be afraid to let each other in.
“Love will heal what language fails to know”
Also an acclaimed Irish poet, Boland’s works are taught as part of the Leaving Certificate syllabus for Irish students.
Another message to take to heart as we continue to welcome people from other countries into our own. That we reach for people not with words, but with our hearts.
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