Dracula by Bram Stoker, Irish (1847-1912)
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW VAMPIRES?
The first thing you need to know about vampires is that they are “undead”! That’s right; these evil beings hover between this life and the next, sucking the blood from live victims, and turning them into vampires. Vampires sleep in their coffins between sunup and sundown. At night, they take the form of other creatures, especially bats and wolves, roaming the countryside for hapless victims. They do not eat human food, hate garlic, Christian crosses, and are powerless in sunlight. A vampire can only be destroyed by plunging a stake through its heart and cutting off its head–not an easy task.
“Pangur Ban” a 9th Century anonymous poem, translated by Robin Flower
A page from The Book of Kells
Three hundred years before this anonymous poem was written, monasteries sprung up around Ireland. Clonard, Clonmacnois, and Clonfert, the most famous monasteries, became important centers of learning where Irish men and foreigners trained to be artists, thinkers, educators, and scribes. The monks were the first to research and write the history of Ireland. They also used their skills and talents to celebrate God in poetry and song. Before the advent of the printing press, monks created illuminated manuscripts, based on the scriptures, all drawn and written by hand. These sacred manuscripts required advanced literacy and artistry, many of them taking years to complete. The most famous surviving manuscripts are The Book of Kells, The Book of Durrow, and The Book of Armagh. Some of the greatest metal workers, sculptors, and bookbinders of the period worked at the Irish monasteries. Continue reading
Shakespeare Insult Generator by Barry Kraft, 2014
A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!
A POX ON YOUR CHICKEN LIVERS!
THOU FAWNING FOUL-MOUTHED FUSTILARIAN!
There I was, on a sweltering summer afternoon, browsing in an air-conditioned bookstore, when I discovered a Shakespearean book by Barry Kraft. Was it an in-depth analysis of the Bard’s 38+ 16th-century plays? An instruction book for aspiring poets on creating sonnets with iambic pentameter? Or a collection of Shakespeare’s famous quotes for the serious Elizabethan scholar? Not even close! Imagine my surprise–and sheer joy–when on page eleven of this nifty little 6″ x 5″ book, I read the first of many Shakespearean insults: “APISH, BALD-PATED ABOMINATION” Continue reading
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats, Irish (1865-1939)
I first studied this poem in sixth grade. My teacher, Mrs. O’ Brien, was a fervent Yeats enthusiast, placing him on an Irish poetry pedestal like a mythical, Celtic god. In her opinion, Yeats was the greatest poet ever to walk on Irish soil, and woe betides any child who disagreed with her. Having analyzed and learned the poem by heart–we memorized everything in those days–Mrs. O’Brien instructed us to write a three-page essay on “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” identifying and discussing the aspects of nature. Apart from writing about bee hives, the linnet’s wings, and the lapping lake, I also declared that Yeats was unrealistic in planting nine bean rows. After all, beans spread like crazy, and he would have had enough beans to feed an army. And besides, what about cabbage, potatoes, and carrots? A person couldn’t live on beans, not on an island–not even a poet. You may wonder at my knowledge of beans at the tender age of twelve. Suffice it to say that my father was an avid gardener, and he had “experimented” with beans, carrots, lettuce, and various other vegetables and berry bushes that spread like plagues in our back garden every year. I asked my father about the bean problem. Continue reading
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Irish (1854-1900)
ABOUT OSCAR WILDE
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, the son of Sir William Wilde, an ear and eye surgeon, and Lady Jane Wilde, an Irish Nationalist, was the second of three children, born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1854. Oscar attended Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Greek literature, joined the University Philosophical Society, and won the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek studies. He then attended Magdalen College, Oxford, England, where he developed a refined sensibility for beauty, wearing his hair long, and decorating his room with blue china and flowers–especially lilies and sunflowers. He said, “I find it harder every day to live up to my blue china.” Oscar believed in the aesthetic movement of the late 19th century: Art for Art’s sake. He had a wonderful sense of humor, becoming very famous–and infamous–during his glorious Oxford years for his satirical wit and wisdom. Wilde’s strong classical education paved the way for his successful career as an editor, writer, poet, and playwright.
“A Passion for Reason” – a little satire to promote the Classics by Sarah M. Fredericks, Irish (1960-present)
I wrote the above poem while reading about The Age of Reason (The Enlightenment) which occurred in 17th and 18th century Europe. A group of philosophical intellectuals decided that instead of relying on traditions and superstitions (especially those based on faith), they should emphasize individualism, reason, the scientific method, and reading the Classics to advance society. Continue reading