Saturday, December 27, 2008

In Search of Francesca da Rimini (Part 1.)

Europe was slowly emerging from the dark ages and one of the few glimmerings of enlightenment was to be found in France in the south western area of Aquitaine, at Provence. There, under the rule of the Counts of Toulouse, the economy expanded and with it, the culture of its people developed and flourished in literature, learning, art and music. It was too, a period of relative peace conditioned by strong leadership.
Count William 1X of Poitiers was one of the earliest, most successful and celebrated members of the Troubadours, whose poetry and wistful songs of unrequited love were a part of the golden age, whose riches, both economic and social, were later to be decimated and its people massacred by the jealousies of other incompetent and troubled state rulers in Europe under the guise of religious persecution, by name, the Albigensian crusade – as Charles Macaulay pointed out in his review of Von Ranke’s History of the Popes… “Provence was once the most opulent and enlightened part of the greater European family.”

When Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited the duchy on the death of her father, William X in 1137, she married within a few months, LouisV11, King of France, bringing, but not parting with those domains nor the intrigues by which they were first gained. By Louis, she bore two daughters, Marie and Alix. She held court at Poitiers as patron of arts, maintaining the mannerisms, styles and culture of her forebears, including the traditions of the Troubadours, of wandering minstrels, of song and of love.
In 1152, the marriage to Louis was annulled, and hardly without pause, Eleanor accepted the hand of marriage from Henry 11 of England that same year, grounding the union by her dowry, Aquitaine.
Henry and Eleanor had eight children, five boys and two girls, of whom Richard and John would be kings. Their daughter Leanora, married Alphonse of Castile, and their daughter, Blanche, in a union arranged by Eleanor, her grandmother, she wed King Louis V111 of France and so became mother of the famous crusader, King (Saint) Louis 1X.

But it is to Marie, Countess of Champagne, where the link to Francesca da Rimini is to be found. Like her mother Eleanor, Marie was a vivacious person, an avid patron of arts and of all things which made life not just more bearable, but exciting and enjoyable, while at the same time maintaining similar traditions at her court at Troyes, as Eleanor had at Poitiers. At her court, she was joined by two of the most famous trouveres of the time, Chretienne de Troyes, previously a retainer of Eleanor; and Andreas Capellanus, author of De Amore, or, The Art of Courtly Love, a code of conduct governing passion and desire in polite society.
In her enthusiasm, she had Chretiennes compose stories (c.1185) on themes of her own gloriously fertile imagination, if not her feats of feral ingenuity; scenes of chivalry by Knights of The Round Table, of unbelievable heroism, of bravery beyond the call of duty, but above all else, of the knight’s honour - well, at least until m’lady in distress surrendered her feigned protests to gratitude, and Endymion’s eternal flame of love.
It is how the stories of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere came to be loved and revered, and became a format for a succession of epic love stories which melted the hearts of young men and women throughout the ages of time. Thoughts, imaginative, pictured in the mind, dangling tantalizingly, ever so close… by such tales were passions aroused.

One hundred years later, 1285, after Marie de Campagne’s tale of Lancelot and Guinevere was written, a love story of heart-breaking proportions came to light in Italy concerning two companions, Francesca da Polenta (Rimini) and Paolo Malatesta, both young and fresh to life, whose initial relationship was innocently platonic, but very soon blossomed into blissful hermaphroditic union. The record of the circumstances surrounding the story comes to us from Dante Alighieri in his trilogy, The Divine Comedy, written c.1314. For Dante, this was a contemporary affair, and referred to it in the first book Inferno (Hell). It is one of the most loving, appealing, yet tragic stories of youth and love, and has moved great artists of music, sculpture and painting to replicate and encapsulate the word ‘Love’, represented by the figures of Francesca and her lover, Paolo.
In part two in next month’s Bugle, Dante will meet the shades of Francesca and Paolo wandering through Upper Hell, where Francesca explains the circumstances of their tragic love. In the meantime this gent is flying to Paris, to the Musee Rodin, to savour the beauty of Rodin’s monument to love, his sculpture in marble of The Kiss, whose original title was Francesca da Rimini, until the charlatans of art appreciation vented their blue-stocking prudery towards an exaltation they could never even hope to experience.

Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.1st +5th vrs.

Like souls that balance joy and pain,
With tears and smiles from heaven again
The maiden Spring upon the plain
Came in a sunlit fall of rain.
In crystal vapour everywhere
Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between,
And far, in forest-deeps unseen,
The topmost elm-tree gather’d green
From draughts of balmy air.

As she fled fast thro’ sun and shade,
The happy winds upon her play’d,
Blowing the winglet from the braid,
She look’d so lovely, as she swayed
The rein with dainty finger-tips,
A man had given all other bliss,
And all his worldly worth for this,
To waste his whole heart in one kiss
Upon her prefect lips.

Ballymore-Eustace’s Proud Handball Record
Part 6

Myles Lawlor (Senior) was born in 1888 in Bishophill. He started his schooling in Ballymore-Eustace and finished in St. Joseph's Clondalkin. Myles was profiled in the March 1978 Echo where he stated:

“His main interest in life was sports of every description and he was an all round sportsman. He spent a lot of his young days in the Ballalley and he could 'kill' a ball with his feet as good as if he was using his hands. Canon Cantwell sponsored all of the local tournaments and it was mostly money they played for as there was no such things as medals in the old days. He remembers playing, with pride, O'Dowd in Clondalkin. Transport to these matches was provided by two lorries from Naas (Hedermans and Gibbons) and Ballymore gave him wonderful support and really helped him to win the "rubber". He also helped with the extension of the Alley in 1928 ".

Myles served on the first handball committee and took part in the first doubles game played in the 60 by 30 alley.

Myles' son Bill Lawlor was a whole hearted left handed player who teamed up with Paddy Monaghan in 1953 to win the All-Ireland junior hard doubles title and for good measure Bill won the corresponding singles title. This was the first time Ballymore won the two All-Ireland junior hardball titles in the same year. Bill helped with the raising of the walls of the 60 by 30 alley in 1953. Their opponents in the final from Limerick and Paddy Monaghan are sadly all gone to their eternal reward. Bill happily is still with us. At the height of his powers, Bill suffered a broken leg that put an end to his playing days. Bill has also had success as a trainer and owner of greyhounds. Two names that come to mind are Brave Edna and Tantalus. In 1974, Bill kindly donated "The Brave Edna Cup" for a league competition to be run by the Athletic Club.

Bill's brother Myles was probably the first Ballymore player to concentrate on softball and represented the Club at junior level. Myles was also a member of Ballymore's defense in the County Senior Football win of 1953. Fishing was a pastime Myles was interested in and I have happy memories of accompanying Myles along with my brother James on one of his fishing trips.

Myles knew of a big trout in a pond a good way down the Liffey near Coughlanstown that he had been trying to catch for sometime. Arriving at the spot, Myles set about his task with patience while James and myself eagerly watched. From time to time Myles indicated that he had got a nibble but nothing more happened. Myles was only interested in the one fish. Eventually what we were waiting for happened. Myles had hooked the big one. Slowly but surely Myles reeled him in until the trout was close enough to be put in the net. It was the biggest trout I ever saw weighing over three and a half pounds. The best was yet to come as Myles gave James and myself the trout that we were then able to proudly present to our parents when we arrived home.

Liam, Joe and Tony Evans were all involved in handball as players while Tony was also involved on the official side. Before he immigrated in the early fifties, Liam was one of our top junior hardball players and in fact represented the Club in hard doubles in partnership with Bill Lawlor. It was Liam who gave me my first hardball and thereby set me on a path that ultimately lead me to All-Ireland senior honours. While Joe was a useful handballer I do not recall him playing the game competitively. Like Liam, Joe also immigrated. Tony for his part while a minor was able to hold his own against players of All-Ireland standard. In 1960, which was one of our more successful seasons, Tony was Club Chairman and for a couple of years in the sixties he held a key position on the County Board.

© Matt Purcell (October 20, 2008)
In the Leinster "B" Championship, Gary Mahon and Stewart Byrne were runners upto Wexford in the U-15 60 x 30 Final at Croke Park. Gary is the son of Sean Mahon of Broadleas while Stewart is the son of Sheila Byrne (nee Pearse) of St Bridget’s Park.
In a tournament in Ballymore Eustace last month, a total of 22 players competed over 2 nights. This tournament was open to all grades in Kildare. After some very closely contested games, Daragh Ward and Gerry Fennell beat Tommy Archibold and James Travers in the final.

The Ballymore Eustace Club hopes to run similar competitions at Christmas in both courts.

Meanwhile, the Leixlip Club are running their Annual Tournament on December 7th and would appreciate entries as soon as possible.

Lastly, the winner of the Kildare Handball Award for 2008 will be announced at the Kildare G.A.A. Sports Stars night in the Keadeen Hotel on November 22.

Eamonn Deegan

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