Biking in Ireland

by Steve Hartshorne on June 1, 2006

To all my friends in the blogosphere:

Sorry I have not posted for a week. I’ve been on a bicycle tour of the West of Ireland. I thought I would be able to blog from there, but we averaged just under 30 miles a day (not bad for a bunch of journalists) and I didn’t even have time to use the jacuzzis.

I got a beautiful up-close and personal view of the Emerald Isle, though, smelled the manure and the burning peat and patted all the horsies we went by.

From the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle to the ring forts of Inis Mor to the Stone Age tombs of The Burren to the breathtaking scenery of Connemara, it was truly an unforgettable experience, which you can read all about on GoNOMAD once I get it written.

As we drove to Shannon Airport to fly back to the States, we passed Kiltartan’s Cross and I was reminded of the recitation that won me the Public Speaking Prize in the seventh grade back at Dexter School in Brookline, Massachusetts. I still know it by heart:

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

by William Butler Yeats

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above.
Those that I fight I do not hate.
Those that I guard I do not love.

My country is Kiltartan’s Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor.
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.

I balanced all, brought all to mind.
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind.
In balance with this life, this death.

This may sound a little corny, but I was truly moved by the indomitable spirit of the Irish people. After centuries of conquest, sacking, looting, famine and oppression, the Irish have always been head and shoulders above all other countries in literature, music, dance, and theater — in short everything that is ennobling to the human spirit.

Things are better in Ireland now. They have full employment, and they even have 160,000 Polish immigrants to fill all the jobs that have been created by a economic mini-boom.

I asked our guide, John Heagney, whose family has been farming in Ireland for many generations, whether all this prosperity might mean that Ireland will have to relinquish its preeminence in the arts. He laughed and said it’s a chance they’re willing to take.

“Besides,” he said, “maybe it’s time for some other countries to have their turn.”

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