Mar. 17, 2007

Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites

by William Butler Yeats

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Poem: "Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites" by William Butler Yeats, from Selected Poems and Four Plays of William Butler Yeats. © Scribner Paperback Poetry. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites

Come gather round me, Parnellites,
And praise our chosen man,
Stand upright on your legs awhile,
Stand upright while you can,
For soon we lie where he is laid
And he is underground;
Come fill up all those glasses
And pass the bottle round.

And here's a cogent reason
And I have many more,
He fought the might of Ireland
And saved the Irish poor,
Whatever good a farmer's got
He brought it all to pass;
And here's another reason,
That Parnell loved a lass.

And here's a final reason,
He was of such a kind
Every man that sings a song
Keeps Parnell in his mind
For Parnell was a proud man,
No prouder trod the ground,
And a proud man's a lovely man
So pass the bottle round.

The Bishops and the Party
That tragic story made,
A husband that had sold his wife
And after that betrayed;
But stories that live longest
Are sung above the glass,
And Parnell loved his country
And Parnell loved his lass.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is St. Patrick's Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland. There will be parades and celebrations in cities all across the world, but the holiday has always been most popular in the United States, especially in cities with large Irish-American populations. In Chicago, they dye the Chicago River green every year. And in New York City, there's a huge parade that goes up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street, past St. Patrick's Cathedral. And it's all to celebrate the man who brought Christianity to Ireland.

It's the birthday of the science fiction novelist William Gibson, (books by this author) born in Conway, South Carolina (1948). He moved to Toronto to avoid the draft, and he became a stay-at-home father while his wife was getting her master's degree. Since he was stuck in the house, he thought that writing might be a way for him to help support the family.

Gibson found immediate success writing science fiction short stories, and then in 1984, he published his first novel, Neuromancer (1984), which begins, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." It was in that novel that Gibson coined the word "cyberspace," which Gibson described as, "a graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system."

Neuromancer (1984) won all the major science fiction awards and became a best-seller, and Gibson's concept of cyberspace anticipated the invention of the Internet by about a decade. By the late 1980s, he was considered a kind of prophet of the information age. He was invited to all kinds of conferences on virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and people were always somewhat surprised to learn how little he knew about computers. He wrote all of his early books on a manual typewriter.

William Gibson has gone on to write many more books of science fiction, but he set his novel Pattern Recognition (2003) in the present, because he said, "I don't have to write about the future. For most people, the present is enough like the future to be pretty scary."

It was on this day in 1901 that Vincent Van Gogh's (books by this author) paintings were shown at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. The exhibit made Van Gogh's work famous. There were 71 paintings in the Paris exhibit, and all of them showed the bright colors and intense brush strokes for which Van Gogh became known.

It was on this day in 1941 that the National Gallery of Art opened in Washington, D.C. Andrew W. Mellon donated the funds for the construction of the museum's main building, and he also gave his own entire art collection, which included 369 paintings by European artists such as Botticelli, Corot, Perugino, Raphael, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Dyck, and many, many others.

It's the birthday of novelist and children's author Penelope Lively, (books by this author) born in Cairo, Egypt (1933). She's the author of the novels The Road to Lichfield (1977), Treasures of Time (1979), and According to Mark (1984), among many others.

It's the birthday of playwright and novelist Paul (Eliot) Green, (books by this author) born on a farm near Lillington, North Carolina (1894). His first full-length play, Abraham's Bosom, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927. In 1941, he collaborated with Richard Wright to produce a dramatic version of Wright's novel Native Son (1940). Green also wrote several short stories and two novels, The Laughing Pioneer (1932) and This Body the Earth (1935).

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