The Pillar, my study of the Nelson Pillar on O’Connell Street, is currently on sale from the publisher for €9.99, with free postage in the mix. Rather than just highlighting that,I want to draw attention to a great poem that sadly didn’t make the book – for the simple reason I stumbled across it too late!
Dublin Opinion remains one of the most important publications in the history of this city. Founded in 1922 by Arthur Booth and Charles E Kelly, it was home to biting satire, wonderful cartoons, and even a dash of poetry. As Felix Larkin has noted:
Dublin Opinion was published monthly, a miscellany of quips, short articles, poems and cartoons – all in a humorous vein, but with serious intent. Its masthead initially included a subtitle in Irish that translated as “Seriousness in humour”. The journal, without sacrificing its humour, always retained the capacity for conveying a serious message – and the message had greater impact because it was delivered in a humorous way.
We’ve looked at Dublin Opinion on the site before, with a cartoon that mocked the GAA Vigilance Committee. Another gem comes from Fifteen Years of Dublin Opinion, published in 1937. The poem makes an argument that the Nelson Pillar on O’Connell Street should be left exactly as is, at a time when some were demanding its removal.
Dauntless aloft he sails the skies
An admiral of stone,
Watching with doubtless quiet eyes
A country not his own
Whose memories of sailormen are Bantry Bay and Tone.
Only when winds are from the South
He sees Trafalgar Bay
And hears the belching cannon-mouth
Wreak wreck and disarray,
Giving, with empty sleeve close-hauled, the order of the day.
Long buried is that battle’s bane,
Still stands the column’s stone.
We took the Norman and the Dane
And made of them our own;
And that tall shaft of alien birth to one of us has grown.
I’m sure ’twas scarcely up a year,
As Davis would have said,
When it became a ‘Dubliner’
To Dubliners long dead.
The way the Geraldines once trod was plainly its to tread.
Our winds around its granite pate
A hundred years have blown,
I think if we could put it straight,
To Theobald Wolfe Tone,
His vote would be ‘Don’t spoil the street.
Let the old chap alone.’
While I missed the boat, John Wyse Jackson and Hector McDonnell were wise enough to include this one in their very entertaining Dublin’s Other Poetry: Rhymes and Songs of the City. It was published by Lilliput Press.