Sunday 17 December 2017

Poetry: An anthem that is worthy of being our national song

Thomas Davis
Thomas Davis

Ulick O'Connor

Next Wednesday will be the 170th anniversary of the death of Thomas Davis. It was Davis who wrote 'A Nation Once Again' with the idea that it might become our national anthem.

Alas, when the time came that we would need an anthem of our own, 'The Soldier's Song' written by Brendan Behan's uncle Peadar Kearney was chosen.

Now Peadar Kearney was a fine songwriter and had written a number of very fine ballads. ­

But let's face it, his national anthem is a fright, too many clichés and many unusable words. "Ancient sireland" suggests a broken-down training stables for horses. As for "sheltering despots and slaves", well I ask you?

A while back, President Michael D Higgins, always a man to keep an eye on us when it's needed, had said of Thomas Davis: "Davis had a firm belief in a common humanity, which has such power as to transcend all divisions".

Here's a swish of Davis's 'A Nation Once Again' just to show how much we may have missed by not taking it on board as an anthem.

I don't like to be too definite about it - but it seems to me we could hardly have got a better song to represent our turbulent isle.

A Nation Once Again

When boyhood's fire was in my blood

I read of ancient freemen,

For Greece and Rome who bravely stood,

Three hundred men and three men;

And then I prayed I yet might see

Our fetters rent in twain,

And Ireland, long a province, be.

A Nation once again!

And from that time, through wildest woe,

That hope has shone a far light,

Nor could love's brightest summer glow

Outshine that solemn starlight;

It seemed to watch above my head

In forum, field and fane,

Its angel voice sang round my bed,

A Nation once again!

So, as I grew from boy to man,

I bent me to that bidding

My spirit of each selfish plan

And cruel passion ridding;

For, thus I hoped some day to aid,

Oh, can such hope be vain ?

When my dear country shall be made

A Nation once again!

Thomas Davis 1814-1845

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