The Indomitable Irish Spirit Prevails
By Sam Johnson
We are the music
And we are the dreamers of
Wanderers by lone sea
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world
On whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers
of the world for ever, it seems.
From “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy
Today is St. Patrick’s
On this special day
there are only three kinds of people in the world -- those who are Irish, those
who wish they were Irish, and those who don’t have a clue.
And although I am
pure Norsk with a pinch of German-Russian thrown in for good measure, there are
times when I, too, feel a strong kinship towards the “sons of Auld Sod” and
very willingly heft a mug of Guinness Stout to St. Paddy to “drown a few
shamrocks,” enjoy a meal of corned beef and cabbage, or “colcannon,” soda bread, and Irish stew, and join in a rousing chorus or two of “When Irish Eyes are
Smiling,” “Danny Boy,” or “Wearin’ O’ the Green."
I think this desire
to be a bit Irish, at least on St. Patrick’s Day, is to a large extent due to
the nature of the “Irish Spirit."
The “Irish Spirit” is an intriguing amalgamation
of emotions that reflect the very best natures of the human disposition.
To be Irish is to be,
at turns, genial, sentimental, convivial, whimsical, austere, magnanimous,
exuberant, full of shenanigans, and more than anything else, full of life.
The Irish may exude
endless charm and charity one moment, and exhibit fierce independence and
defiance the next; but the Irish Spirit is always Homeric in expression and
will display a fiery temper, a joyous outburst, or a tender hearth with the
same great intensity.
But above all else,
the Irish Spirit is a proud spirit filled with patriotism and determination.
It is this Irish
pride that is so evident in everything Irish -- the skirl of the pipes and
thumping beat of the bodhrans; the dancing of the jigs and reels with heads
held high and backs ramrod straight; the songs of Dominic and Brendan Behan,
Sean O’Casey, Carolin O’Daly and Turlough O’Carolan and other popular street
ballads with authors unknown sung by the likes of Clancy and Makem; the words
of the great Celtic poets and writers Thomas Moore, William Butler Yeats, John
Synge, Joseph Campbell, James Joyce, Frank O”Connor, Seamus Heaney, and Arthur
O’Shaughnessy to name a few.
In fact, the two
stanzas that begin this column are taken from O’Shaughnessy’s poem simply
titled “Ode.” I can’t think of any other words that so completely sum up what I
feel is the Irish Spirit.
The Irish are indeed
the music makers, creators of songs that can pluck the heartstrings and stir
They are the dreamers
of dreams, always optimistic, hopeful, looking for that pot of gold under the
They have known
loneliness over centuries of oppression in their own country and abroad, and
have suffered great losses in bloody battles, rebellions, and conflicts, many
of which go on even today.
Yet through it all,
that indomitable Irish Spirit has prevailed.
As we look back
through the books of history, we find the pages filled with the names of Irish
movers and shakers -- war heroes, politicians, religious leaders, artists,
philanthropists, humanitarians, (even a U.S. president), and of course --
And so to the Irish,
I lift up my glass and gladly make one of them as I join in saying “ERIN GO