Thursday, September 22, 2011

When all else fails.... sing a Behan song

I am a woman of many words. This I know. It is rare, very rare, when I can't or don't think of something to say about any thing going on in my life, other people's lives or the public world. However, in the abnormal occurrence this does happen, I have spent many a year stock piling funny quips, sentimental drivel and finally intellectual babble to fit any occasion. And when this still doesn't work, there is always song.

I recently had the joy of being able to find the perfect song for the moment I was in and it was all thanks to a lovely set of brothers known as the Behans (Brendan and Dominic) who happen to be responsible for one of my plays of all time, "The Quare Fellow". In it there is a song which laments prison life. It is beautiful, haunting, real, funny, cynical, pleading, and, in its own strange way, hopeful. The Auld Triangle (yes the title of my last blog post) was written by Dominic as an opening for the play to sort of illustrate the daily life and thoughts of prisoners in the Mountjoy Prison in early part of the last century. It is one of those songs you wish you had written, you know the kind, where the words are so beautifully constructed it seems unreal they came from a person, but so unbelievably human it is impossible to imagine them divine. The Irish seem to be able to do this often, whether it is any of Yeats' poems, Joyce's insane mastery of stream of consciousness in Ulysses (or his fantastic set of short stories "The Dubliners"), Wilde's biting wit in everything he touched, O'Casey's portrayal of life during and after the Civil War in his Dublin Trilogy, and I could continue.... but for once I won't. However, for the first time I had the chance to use the Behans not just as a funny line about drinking or the corruption of the Catholic church, but rather as a brilliant insight to the hopeless and hopeful thoughts of those dealing with the interesting institution that is the Irish legal system. In one moment I had moved from the the trite understanding and cliche actions of the song, like singing it along the Royal Canal and on my traipse past  Mountjoy Goal, to a slightly deeper understanding of what the Behan boys were talking about. Needless to say, I prefer my superficial grasp.

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