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Posts Tagged ‘yeats’

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My new photography resolution, which I hope to stick to through the winter, is to capture shadows whenever the sun is out. Apart from the fact that I really like sunlight and shadow, I know I can find examples even in months when the photographic attractions of flowers and sailboats are not in evidence.

Today’s photo collection includes Massachusetts fall color, decorations for Halloween (I particularly liked that there were three witches, as in Shakespeare), curiosities from the MIT Museum (I loved Arthur Ganson‘s walking wishbone — and all his kinetic sculptures), and a graffiti warning in a Central Square alley.

“Come away, O human child!
“To the waters and the wild
“With a faery, hand in hand,
“For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Read the rest of the W.B. Yeats poem here.

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I have decided that if Ireland ever names people as national treasures, it should include James J. Hackett of Moate.

Last night at the Kellys’ party, James clinked the glasses at the table and called everyone to attention. Then he recited Yeats’s poem “The Ballad of Father Gilligan,” preceding it with a little history and acting out all the parts.

The grandson of a man who taught Latin and Greek in a hedgerow school back in the dark days when the English forbade sending Irish children to school, James has taken it upon himself to preserve the culture. His ordinary conversation is a living history, and he is frequently dropping into poetry.

James’s book Days Gone By is written in the way he speaks when talking to friends or taking people on a tour of some ruin. Consider this sample.

“It was long past the witching hour when the poteen revellers came upon Kate resting on the puchann and in a most distressful state.* They took her along to the wake, where she related all her adventures. Great was the wonder and fear that was expressed at hearing this story, and needless to say, many a post mortem was held upon Kate Brambles’s account of the witches’ dance at the half way house in Ballylurkin Bog on the Hallow’een night that Tubbs Lanigan was waked.”

Recent chronicler of Ireland lore and customs Turtle Bunbury discovered James in Moate and has included him in one of his Vanishing Ireland books. Bunbury also features James on a Facebook page, which I hope to access as soon as Turtle accepts my friend request.

[Update: Turtle has just put my post on his page, here.]

You may recall that I blogged about James once before, here, at another time that he was visiting his Rhode Island cousin.

(*James says a “puchann” is a little hill in a bog.)

Photo: Suzanne’s Mom
James J. Hackett in New Shoreham. He made his own shillelagh of blackthorn. He also made one for John and mailed it to him with instructions on how to cure the wood.

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James is an Irish poet, widely considered part leprechaun. Every few years he comes to stay with his cousins for a couple weeks, across the street from my house. James is on the left in this photo, which I took at the Fourth of July parade.

James has two main modes of conversation: storytelling and poetry recitation. It is a pure delight to chat with him. As we waited for the parade, he narrated pages of Irish history, including dates, and recited from W.B. Yeats and our own Nathaniel Hawthorne, among others.

Earlier, he was sitting on his cousins’ front porch and saw a young woman he knows coming across the street. He was moved by the way she walks, as he told me, and with a kind of poetic spontaneous combustion, intoned on the spot:

Meran, fairest maid art thou,

Lovely is thy stride.

My heart goes out to thee

As ebbs the great sea tide.

But, ah, my kind Meran, I’ll not forget thee.

Nor the kind words you said unto me.

James has self-published a couple books of lore in his unique style. He and his brother, both lifelong bachelors, sell peat. On certain Sundays, James bikes 18 miles to the ruins of an old monastery, where he narrates the history for visitors. Then he bikes 18 miles home. In any kind of weather. James is 73.

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