Busy At The River
This is an edited version of an article from the Bugle in April 2000. For this issue, I had intended writing an article on the theme of Courtly Love, and dear to my heart, the Troubadours of Provence, butI did not allow myself enough time, so it will have to wait for the next issue.
In the meantime, I dedicate this to that extraordinary group of people, the FAS workers, People of TheYear 2008, for their artistry, most especially for the absolutely wonderful state of the River Walk. It is a Paradise, a pure pleasure, to stroll along the banks of the river Liffey, reminding me of Purgatory, that scene from last month’s magazine where the pilgrims reach the highest point, Eden, the Earthly Paradise, before entering Heaven.
There is absolutely no place like it. Not even Ratty, nor his furry friend Mole in Wind in the Willows would dispute the thought, because here, there are no enemies. It is peace personified. No matter what direction one strolls, the power of silence surrounds. White clouds whisper across the heavens racing in elegant motion, thoroughbreds riding the blue skies above, while below, the river flows with majestic power taking and providing nourishment, its shouldering banks garlanded in lush greenery. Within, fine trout abound, and as the water sweeps on to looping coils at Inch a Caileen, courting White Swans glide the surface in graceful poise.
Soon, the Mayfly will come for their own Swan-Song-Day and activity at the river will spring alive at their funerals. Fish will jump in joy, trees sprout leaves, bushes blossom with flowers, adding colour and sustenance for the emerging insect life; colony upon colony, whose 100 metre territory is their country of domicile, teeming the undergrowth below and the orchard above. A whistling bird adds music and before long, nature’s orchestra is in full chorus. Presently packing their bags for the flight to Ballymore, the silver-blue flash of the Kingfisher will electrify the already busy resort.
A Black Swan
So beautiful is the scene we write of, that as recently as this April, a visitor never seen before in these parts, graced the river with its presence. A Black Swan, native we think to Australia and Tasmania, unsuccessfully attempted a ménage-a-trois with our two resident White Swans, and as Grainne Glancy observed, the interloper was given short shift by the feathered lovers, true monogamists it would seem. Yet, it could be a portent to an even more glorious future for the river scene.
Of Dream and Imagination
Here, there are mysteries, and all that one could dream of, of life in far-away places, all encapsulated. What needs you of dreams of bygone Babylon – look to the river’s edge at Mount Cashel for the hanging drapery of nature; of the Volga, look to the rushing waters as the river chases itself beneath the arched viaduct; of the Nile, see how the Pinkeen river tumbles uncontrollably, cascading over cataract after cataract, meeting the all-powerful Liffey in humbled submission at Kelly’s Corner; of the immortal Styx, we say nothing of the underworld, but think of the peaceful Seine and lastly of Verona on the river Adige. Here we draw the attention of our readers to the high Rocky slopes behind Fr. Breen’s house, imagining the impassioned cry of a distraught Juliette – Niall, Niall, wherefore art thou Niall – and Echo, from the West Wind replying, ruefully – Sweetie, he’s in the pub. So much for the fun side.
To imagine that a walk in this pleasure-ground erases fruitful thought from the intellect, or distracts the mind from important affairs of life is reason enough to grasp that imagination and engage your whole being in an existence where, as Spring and Summer approach, you surrender yourself to the power of its Sanctified Silence, and an unfamiliar world embraces you in its intimate charms.
Lately, where scrubland has been cleared, saplings have been planted along the pathway and in time, a fine avenue of noble trees will stand in proud salute to their gardeners. The variety includes Birch, Ash, Oak, Sycamore, Maple. Some of these species we take note of as being intrinsically Celtic, having been used in turn as Seasonal Dating System, Deification of Purpose, and later as an Alphabet, secret to the priesthood of Druidism.
In early times, the annual cycle composed of 13 x 28 day months (364 days). The ancient Irish Alphabet, like that used by the Celts of Gaul and referred to by Caesar, was signified by the letters BLN – Beth, Luis, Nuin, the first three letters,, Birch Rowan Ash, the full consisting of 12 consonants and five vowels in the following sequence: BLNFSHDTCMG,NG/GN,R, H being an aspirant. Each vowel representing a quarterly change with A+I (Birth and Death) (Fir/Palm and Yew) sharing the Winter Solstice.
We thank Hermes for the derived pronunciation. Of the trees, we attend to three, Birch, Ash and Oak.
Birch takes pride of place, representing a new season and the first month, December 24th, two days after the Winter Solstice, and being the letter B, first in order of the ancient alphabet, and equal in rank to the Greek Beta, and the Hebrew, Beth.
The Ash, N, Nuin, Greek Nu, and Hebrew Nun, third letter and month (February 18th) represented rain-making.
Oak, D, Dair, sacred to the Celts, an Oracle, 7th letter, June 10th, Greek Delta and Hebrew Daleth.
So, our gardeners landscape our imagination too, providing us with a continuum of ancient traditions, even oracular, well in keeping with the status of our old surroundings, reminding us of why we are classified “Special Village”, and not to dismiss the River Walk as another Idle Amble. To them, we offer our thanks.
Not to have visited the pleasure-grounds that are newly opened to us on the river-side by courtesy of the CDA and the Handywork of the FAS workers and Tidy Towns, will be akin to never having experienced indivisible pleasure.
To stroll there accompanied is to wish one was alone.
To wander there alone is to desire company.
Such is the paradox.
Rose and Tim:I enjoyed your December issue, though I thought Angie Thompson's preferencefor The Gathering over The Sea somewhat a departure from her usually soundjudgement. (Surely the quality of Banville's prose is superb, whereasEnright seems more impressive in her short stories?) Tastes, I grant,differ. I do, however, have a beef I suspect may be shared by others,especially other long-time "exiles" from Ballymore. Lots of good photos, asusual, but far too many UNIDENTIFIED ones! I thought you guys had remediedthis blemish...?Kind regards,Finn GallagherCanada