A lingering dissolution

The Parting Glass

The Parting Glass


In the week that the National Youth Council for Ireland published their study confirming the saddening scale of youth emigration from the island of Ireland over the last number of years I was reminded of Beckett’s line from All that Fall:

“It is suicide to be abroad..but what is it to be at home?… A lingering dissolution.”

I read once that when when Mary Robinson became president of Ireland in 1990, one of her first actions was to light a lamp in the kitchen window of the official residence to acknowledge the many millions of Irish then living overseas. An act of informed symbolism, Robinson’s inspiration was a poem by Eavan Boland called The Emigrant Irish.

It is a political and social shame that we must continue to tend to those lamps, light them anew. But for those who have left, fled that lingering dissolution out of choice or more clearly of late from sad necessity, they flicker. While families and communities wait, with a burning patience, for a return.

Until then let us bring our lamps to the fore that we might remember on other generations who took the same journey abroad, that their possessions might indeed become our power.

EAVAN BOLAND The Emigrant Irish

Like oil lamps we put them out the back,
of our houses, of our minds.
We had lights better than, newer than
and then a time came, this time
and now we need them.
Their dread, makeshift example.

They would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power.
Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parcelled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World.
And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

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