For me, there’s nowhere else to be on St. Patrick’s Day except in Boston. Number one, because I hear the actual Irish, the ones in Ireland, just aren’t that into it. And number two, because Boston freakin’ loves St. Patty’s. It’s one of those few holidays where you don’t have to be any particular religion to celebrate (well, not sure if it helps or hurts to be Catholic on St. Patty’s). Anyway, it’s practically the tagline of the holiday, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!” There’s just something about Ireland that never fails to capture the imagination, at least I’ve always found it so.
I’ve grown up in and around Boston, hearing my father’s stories about his grandfather, Pa, coming over on “the boat.” As if there weren’t thousands of boats, but just the one. It didn’t really matter whether it was actually him or his father who made the crossing though; what mattered was the story, the tale of immigration that can be found in most Americans’ family lore. America’s far from a perfect place, but throughout history it has provided a home and a shelter for millions, the Irish included. There are far more people in the world who claim Irish ancestry than there are people in Ireland, but no matter how removed, St. Patrick’s Day gives us an excuse to revive the spirit once a year.
And yes, it’s an excuse to drink. But I also like to think it’s a little more than that. There’s something so boisterous and lively about Irish culture, and it doesn’t hurt to indulge in that just once a year, to feel a sense of such widespread community. There’s no forgetting that Ireland has been a troubled place, but it has always endured, and that hardy spirit is something we’d do well to remember also.
And since this is a literary/writing/editing blog, it would be grossly wrong for me to forget one of the greatest contributions to the world that Ireland has ever made: its writers. Oh glory, its writers. Jonathan Swift, Bram Stroker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, the list literally goes on and on but I had to stop myself before I got too carried away (George Bernard Shaw, C.S. Lewis, Frank McCourt, Roddy Doyle, Emma Donahue, good Lord, someone help me…). Anyway, there’s no denying that Irish literature and writing has shaped Western society and will continue to do so for years to come; for it is impossible to imagine satire without Swift, horror without Stroker, or poetry without Yeats.
So perhaps this St. Patrick’s Day, in between pints of Guinness, take the time to refresh your familiarity with Irish literature, and I’ll guarantee you’ll be happy you did (I’d recommend starting with something light though; you don’t want to tackle Ulysses tipsy). And if you find yourself inspired, keep in mind that we have a March special here at CambridgeEditors: any document 50 pages or more in the area of literature will receive a 10% discount! This includes American, English, or World literature, so email us describing your project, and make sure to mention the special to get your discount. Writers of books and dissertations seeking edits of documents over 100 pages who contact us in March will also receive a 15% discount.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems by Yeats, believed to be written about his long-time love and muse, Maud Gonne, an Irish Nationalist, actress, and feminist. I suppose it’s not about Ireland specifically, but it’s beautiful, heady language, and it was born of Ireland; and for me, that’s what counts.
No Second Troy
Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
Ugh. Gives me chills every time.
From the staff of CambridgeEditors, happy St. Patrick’s Day!