Thursday, March 16, 2006

An hour and a half from 17 March 2006, California.

"Wearin' o the Green"
anonymous Irish street ballad circa 1798

Oh, Paddy, dear, an' did you hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!
No more St. Patrick's day we'll keep, his colour can't be seen,
For there's a cruel law agin the wearin' o' the Green!
I met wid Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand,
And he said, "How's poor ould Ireland, and how does she stand?"
She's the most distressful country that iver yet was seen,
For they're hangin' men and women there for wearin' o' the Green.

And if the colour we must wear is England's cruel Red,
Let it remind us of the blood that Ireland has shed;
Then pull the shamrock from your hat and throw it on the sod,
And never fear, 'twill take root there, tho' under foot 'tis trod!
When law can stop the blades of grass from growin' as they grow,
And when the leaves in summer-time their colour dare not show,
Then I will change the color, too, I wear in my caubeen
And till that day, plase God, I'll stick to wearin' o' the Green.

(when published by the expatriate Dion Boucicault, it got this new verse added:)
But if at last our colour should be torn from Ireland's heart,
Her sons with shame and sorrow from the dear old isle will part;
I've heard a whisper of a country that lies beyond the sea,
Where rich and poor stand equal in the light of freedom's day.
O Erin, must we leave you, driven by a tyrant's hand?
Must we ask a mother's blessing from a strange and distant land?
Where the cruel cross of England shall nevermore be seen
And where, please God, we'll live and die still wearin' o' the Green.

I'm not Catholic. I'm not religious. I don't have any praise for an Italian coming into Ireland and driving out Druids. But the fact that I can sing Irish songs and dance and feast and drink and wear that color head to toe, if I please, on this day, without being killed for it, is only some decades old. It is too small and too precious a thing to forget, even a few generations and a few thousand miles away. Whatever this fucked up kleptocracy has threatened, broken, taken, squashed, and undermined so far, I'm at least not being hung, yet, for proclaiming a heritage and a bearing on a charged day. But maybe it's not so far away, again, if you'll take it for a more general sense. And play it out to other cultures and to political groups, across time and over many borders. . . Too many have died, already, in defense of small freedoms and small nations from the wicked, bloated ones bent on their razing. And I am not about to fucking forget it. I am terrified and angry for days ahead, and I will thrill in this day, now, keep it to praise and mourn what has been protected and what has been lost.

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