• Shelley might have been thinking of the Irish nation when he wrote:
"We look before and after, and pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."
It's true. We are not happy unless we are miserable. Take the current public debate. Acres of newsprint and hours of radio and TV are given over to discussions of a water charge that will not come into being for more than two years at least.
In addition, nobody knows how much it will be, who will be exempt and what the difficulties of getting the meters installed will be.
In spite of all this, it seems that we will spend the next two years or more being outraged, angry, incensed, resentful and whatever negative, strong emotion you are having yourself.
Likewise with the proposed future property tax (not the current €100), about which nobody knows the method or level of assessment.
No matter, we can get worked up on the basis of speculation, pessimism and the forecasts of the purveyors of doom. And all of this in a period when even the brightest among us don't know what is going to happen to the world economy next week, never mind next year.
If there is a negative spin to be put on anything, that's the one we will always choose. For instance, the level of savings has increased in this country. Obviously, the reason for that cannot be that some people are well off and have more than enough to keep body and soul together. Oh no! People who save are said to be anxious, apprehensive and scared of the future. The rainy day is assured -- the economists have said so.
The journalists who go to Dublin Airport to report on the anguish of emigration ignore the other queues -- those of people going on holidays. Yes, they are there, check it out. But I suppose the holidaymakers are too miserable with guilt about their good fortune to talk to anybody about it.
The first swallows, the harbingers of summer, arrived in Ireland last week. These cheerful birds didn't get the same attention as the first dismal portents of the next two Budgets, which flew on to the airwaves courtesy of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. There was obviously a deficit of gloom somewhere, so the soothsayers had to be given something to agonise over.
It wouldn't be so bad if all the negativity was conferring some benefit somewhere, but it isn't. In fact, it is paralysing those people in difficulty by making it impossible for them to see any hope in the future or to motivate themselves to get help.
It also paralyses those who are better off because they feel that even though things may be good now, that is not going to last.
We all know that, don't we?