To stand alone, I thought; to stand alone and unarmed, unarmed but watchful; that was my wish - unarmed, fearful, watchful; haunted perhaps by untold fears lodged in every imagined shadow; mute as the rabbit was mute, and stalked as it was stalked by one vast foolish braggart threat...
Michael MacGrian, "Myself and a Rabbit"
Mr. Toole had a peculiarity. He had the habit, when accompanied by another person, of saluting total strangers; but only if these strangers were of important air and costly raiment. He meant thus to make it known that he had friends in high places, and that he himself, though poor, was a person of quality fallen on evil days through some undisclosed sacrifice made in the interest of immutable principle early in life. Most of the strangers, startled out of their private thoughts, stammered a salutation in return.
Brian O'Nolan, "The Martyr's Crown"
St. John Ervine
Townsmen and neighbours mingled with men from the country and the hills, and fishermen from the bay where the girl was drowned; and each man, as he came up to a group of acquaintances, spoke of the terribleness of the disaster, and then the talk circled round the affairs of the small town.
St. John Ervine, "The Burial"
"Far away," continued the statue in a low musical voice, "far away in a little street there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's maids-of-honour to wear at the next Court-ball. In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move."
Oscar Wilde, "The Happy Prince"
ApologiesOnce again, Typepad inexplicably turned off the comments on my entire blog, but now the comments are just as inexplicably back on again. (If I blogged more avidly, and if I thought the transition to a new platform would be anything less than a nightmare, I'd move it elsewhere, like to Wordpress.) So if you've been eager to share your two cents on any of the obscure Irish writers I've been excerpting this month, you can now comment away!
"...be like him, if you can..."
Jonathan Swift's self-penned epitaph:
Here lies the body
Of Jonathan Swift, S.T.D.,
Dean of this cathedral,
Where wild indignation
Can tear his heart.
And be like him, if you can,
Vigorous to his utmost
As liberty’s avenger.
William Butler Yeats
And then he was silent and nobody liked to question him, and they began to play. There were six men at the boards playing, and the others were looking on behind. They played two or three games for nothing, and then the old man took a fourpenny bit, worn very thin and smooth, out from his pocket, and he called to the rest to put something on the game. Then they all put down something on the boards, and little as it was it looked much, from the way it was shoved from one to another, first one man winning it and then his neighbour. And sometimes the luck would go against a man and he would have nothing left, and then one or another would lend him something, and he would pay it again out of his winnings, for neither good nor bad luck stopped long with anyone.
William Butler Yeats, "Red Hanrahan"
One evening she was walking by the canal when The Golden Barque passed. The light was very clear and searching. It showed every plank, battered and tarstained, on the rough hulk, but for all that it lost none of its magic for Mary. The little shrunken driver, head down, the lips moving, walked beside the horse. She heard his low mutters as he passed. The red-faced man was stooping over the side of the boat, swinging out a vessel tied to a rope, to haul up some water. He was singing a ballad in a monotonous voice. A tall, dark, spare man was standing by the funnel, looking vacantly ahead. Then Mary's eyes travelled to the tiller.
Seumas O'Kelly, "Michael and Mary"
"Put on your good clothes," said the widow, making a great effort to be gentle, but her manners had become as twisted and as hard as the branches of the trees across the road from her, and even the kindly offers she made seemed harsh. The boy sat on the chair in a slumped position that kept her nerves on edge, and set up a further conflict of irritation and love in her heart. She hated to see him slumping there in the chair, not asking to go outside the door, but still she was uneasy whenever he as much as looked in the direction of the door. She felt safe while he was under the roof; inside the lintel; under her eyes.
Mary Lavin, "The Story of the Widow's Son"
The man was pitiable, and I pitied him. I went alternately hot and cold. I blushed for him and for myself; for the stones under our feet and for the light clouds that went scudding above our heads; and in another instant I was pale with rage at his shameful, shameless persistence. I thrust my hands into my pockets, because they were no longer hands but fists; and because they tingled and were inclined to jerk without authority from me.
James Stephens, "Schoolfellows"