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Irish Writers and the Easter Rising
We were delighted to welcome His Excellency the Irish Ambassador, Mr Daniel Mulhall to Stonyhurst on Thursday April 28th, to speak about ‘Irish Writers and the Easter Rising.’ This was the latest in a series of talks at Stonyhurst to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising, in which Joseph Mary Plunkett OS was a key figure.
Mr Mulhall considered the poetry of three of the rebel leaders – Pádraig Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Joseph Plunkett – and also the background to the Rising, acknowledging that their motivation and mind-sets belonged to a very different age: they were idealists, with an intense passion for their country’s history and culture, for the soul of Ireland, and ‘the power of the Gael’.
Pádraig Pearse, a teacher, poet, and barrister, played a major part in the wording of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Finalised in April 1916, it was a dramatic expression of Irish nationhood whose flowing phrases carry the ‘flair and flavour’ of Pearse’s poetic style. As commander-in-chief of the Rising, it was Pearse who issued the orders for its beginning, who read aloud the Proclamation from Dublin’s General Post Office, and who ultimately ordered the surrender.
Joseph Plunkett was the Rising’s youngest rebel leader, its military strategist, and arguably the most natural poet of the three writers. In his early twenties, having become increasingly involved in Irish politics and separatist nationalism, Plunkett became the editor of The Irish Review. It was here that he encountered the strong nationalist feelings of Thomas MacDonagh, to whom he dedicated his first book of published poetry, The Circle and the Stone. MacDonagh, in turn, knew Pearse, having been the Assistant Headmaster at Pearse’s school. MacDonagh loved English and Irish literature alike, and wrote a book about Thomas Campion’s poetry.
Mr Mulhall’s talk was a passionate, detailed and fascinating account of the poetry of the Easter Rising’s leaders and their contemporaries. He concluded by quoting William Butler Yeats’ poem Easter 2016: “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”
John Green OS, Chairman of the Glasnevin Trust, presented a plaque to Stonyhurst, inscribed with the first verse of Plunkett’s poem, I see his blood upon the rose, which will be placed in the Silence Gallery.
Former Taoiseach, John Bruton, will be the Guest of Honour at Great Academies in May.
Senator Ronan Mullen: The Easter Rising of 1916 (September 2016 – date to be confirmed)