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Posts Tagged ‘Silver Tassie’

Go, fetch to me a pint o’ wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie,
That I may drink before I go.
A service to my bonie lassie

From that song came the footballer, Harry Heegan, who won the cup and went to war, and the entire narrative of The Silver Tassie….Sean had spoken with great excitement and urgency of his treatment of the second act in the war zone on The Western Front.
Eileen O’ Casey from ‘Sean’

The 1920s in Britain produced plenty of literature, plays and drama inspired by the ‘Great War’. The majority of this of course was almost nostalgic, reflecting the soldiers of the empire as a unified organisation of heroes. It was also for the most part the product of men who had been nowhere near the war, and C. Desmond Greaves remarked in his excellent study of the politics of Sean O’ Casey that in such works “..officers and gentlemen emitted the cosy sentiments of the cricket field”.

The cosy repackaging of the war was a long way removed from the view held by many in the labour movement of course. James Connolly had written in the midst of the war that “the carnival of murder on the continent will be remembered as a nightmare in the future”, a view no doubt shared by O’ Casey. In The Silver Tassie, O’ Casey’s excellent anti-war play, we see a rejection of the more comfortable version of events. Like Connolly before him, O’ Casey saw the war as nothing but the slaughter of working class men.

The Abbey rejection of The Silver Tassie is well documented. It was perhaps unsurprising, owing to the response to The Plough and the Stars in 1926, and the new direction of O’ Casey’s work. Yeats famously wrote to O’ Casey that “…you are not interested in the Great War; you never stood on its battlefields, never walked in its hospitals, and so write out of your opinions.” Yet O’ Casey had seen the horror of the war firsthand. While at St. Vincent’s Hospital he had been in the presence of men completely destroyed by the war. His own brothers had been in the British army, and like any working class Dubliner O’ Casey had seen men walking around the city as shadows of their former selves. The hurt caused to O’ Casey by the rejection of the play was perhaps clearest when he refused to meet Lady Gregory in London, despite her writing of her desires to see the play there.

Men of the 10th (Irish) Division.

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