Monday, September 21, 2009

I Mucked the Title Up.

Well, here is the first official post of a blog I did not originally intend to create; but I decided that, since so many people were asking me if I had a blog about my trip to Ireland, I would go ahead and create one for their benefit.

In case you were wondering what is with the strange title I've given to my Irish adventure blog, it was supposed to be an allusion to the Yeats poem 'Who Goes with Fergus?', but instead I got the phrasing of the poem's title mixed with its first line, 'Who will go drive with Fergus now'. Oops. It is quite a nice poem, and seems to have been one of Joyce's favorites (it is alluded to and quoted from several times in Ulysses). Indulge me, will you, while I quote its entire length:

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fears no more.
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

Nice, isn't it? I rather like Yeats, despite his egotism and his crazed, half-pagan ways. (I believe he once claimed to have had a long conversation with a group of faeries.) He's the first author we're reading in my Irish Literature in English course--a damn good poet.

I have a damn lot of reading to do, too, this semester. I'm going to have to--finally!--learn the art of skimming, which I loathe. If I am to read a text, I want to actually read it: I want to understand a work, not pick out enough of it so that I might have something to say in class. Alas, though, I think I'll have to put that desire on the back burner for now. (I'll also probably have to put Anna Karenina on the back burner for now--will I ever get to finish that book?)

This skimming isn't so bad in every case, however. For instance, for my Romanticism class (ugh!), we have to read a little novel called Caleb Williams, by William Godwin, whom you may know as 'that bastard who fathered Mary Shelley.' It's got an exciting but stereotypical 18th century British novel plot: lots of mystery and intrigue and people overreacting and doing each other in for no good reason at all; except there isn't a single marriage, possibly because Godwin hated marriage and wanted to abolish it. It's full of overblown speeches and high-falutin diatribes and exclamations: a good deal of overwrought prose and needlessly embellished speech. In its love for large words, I couldn't help but compare it to Moby-Dick; but where Moby-Dick sores and dips and rages like a hurricane, Caleb Williams races and then plods and then goes bang with a showy flash. I guess the difference lies in the fact that Melville was a genius and Godwin simply a radical with a dictionary. Melville could weave what otherwise might simply be purple prose into a staggering and ragged purple heaven, full of fire and thunder. Godwin could not.

I did, however, just finish a wonderful story in another book, The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories, purchased for my Irish literature course. The story is entitled 'The Weaver's Grave' and was written by Seumas O'Kelly--no, I'd never heard of him before, either; but judging by this piece, he's a master. You ought to read it, if you can find it.

But, moving on to something entirely different, let me tell you a bit about where I'm going to school and where I'm living. UCD (University College Dublin) was founded in the 19th century as the Royal University, by none other than the soon-to-be-sainted John Henry Cardinal Newman, author of the always-to-be-classic The Idea of a University, one of my favorite books ever. Originally, it was housed off St. Stephen's Green in a lovely set of buildings that have since been abandoned and/or confiscated by the government. Since that time, it's moved south of the city center, to Belfield, along Donnybrook Road (I believe--the roads all change names every hundred feet or so, it seems). It's also lost its status as a Catholic liberal arts university--meaning that it is no longer Catholic and no longer a liberal arts university. To be sure, it offers courses in the liberal arts (I am taking some of these), but it no longer resembles anything described in The Idea. . . It has separate colleges where one concentrates in separate areas of study--which is a shame, since it denies a whole host of wonderful truths and trials to a whole host of students. I am not anything like fully acquainted with the long history of the institution, but I gather that a great deal of this probably happened because of the nationalization of the school. It seems a sad thing to me; I don't know how it seems to Ireland's citizens, and certainly they have more of a right to their opinion than I have to mine in this matter.

I was not able to get a room on campus, but UCD was able to set me up with some rather cozy digs off of Baggot St. Bridge, right by the Canal, east of St. Stephen's Green. Within three minutes, I can be on the Canal, sitting by the statue of Kavanagh overlooking the green glassy waters, watching duck-wakes. My roommate is a nice fellow named Avery, who plays and studies traditional Irish music at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He says he's from Portland, Oregon, but he has a distinct and thick Irish accent. I have not asked him to clear up this matter of confusion for me, yet. He's a nice, quiet fellow; reads a lot of fantasy novels.

I like my professors well enough, so far. I don't know much about them, yet. My Logic professor is a funny guy with a very dapper mustache, named Gerard Casey. I've joined several societies here, to have some fun and meet some friends: Drama Society, English Literature Society, Newman Society, Pro-Life Society, Classics Society, and the International Students Society. Went out last Friday with some folks from DramSoc, had a few pints, danced a bit, and was pleasantly surprised that the DJ played a Hot Chip song. I also discussed, with one girl, whether or not people ought to put butter on sandwiches. She did not understand why one wouldn't.

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