The plans for Labor Day weekend have changed many times this year. We scheduled a major infrastructure project at work to take place over the three-day weekend. That got canceled. It conflicted with the deadline for one of our development teams. Next, we thought we might go to Wisconsin to see The House on the Rock. I first became aware of this roadside attraction while spending a long weekend at my friend’s Wisconsin farm. I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on a short-but-pleasant vacation. The House on the Rock makes an intriguing appearance in the novel. Also, some other friends of mine have been and described the place as eerily fascinating. I have wanted to visit ever since. Brian and Melissa have wanted to go too.
That fell through.
Whirl and I eventually settled for going to the Hidden Shamrock yesterday for the Celtic jam session. Smokes, Patrick, Brian, Liz, and Melissa joined us. I have been to the session a few times since living in Chicago. The last time I went was several years ago. The session is vaguely informal. Performers bring their instruments. They sit in a circle near the fireplace and take turns playing traditional Celtic music. Yesterday’s collection of instruments included three accordions; two flutes, one Irish traditional, one a concert flute; a banjo and a tin whistle. Two men also sang.
The tavern was quiet. Other than the musicians there were perhaps ten patrons. I felt empowered. I felt like I was listening to a personal concert being performed just for me. It was not a concert. It never is. It was a group of people playing music for the love of playing music. Simple, earnest and sincere. My friends wanted to talk and laugh—as we often do when we go out—as we had not seen each other in a couple weeks in most cases. I eventually was able to indicate to them to quiet for a spell—that there was something going on that was really worth listening to.
My friends quieted. We bought the performers a round of drinks. We listened. The broad windows were open and the weather outside was beautiful: somewhere between warm and autumn. Before we left for the evening, we asked them to play a song I particularly enjoy. The singer said that it had been years since he had last done so. Afterwards he stopped by our table and talked to us for quite a while. These two acts underlined that sense of well-being brought about by the entire moment.
“The Foggy Dew” deals with the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916. It is an appeal for Irishmen to fight for their freedom rather than fight for the English in foreign wars. The author is given as Father O’Neill, a parish priest.
“The Foggy Dew”
‘Twas down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I,
When armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by.
No pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus bells o’er the Liffey’s swell rang out in the foggy dew.
Right proudly high over Dublin town hung they out a flag of war.
‘Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud el Bar.
And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through;
While Brittania’s huns with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew.
O’ the night fell black and the rifles’ crack made “Perfidious Abion” reel
‘Mid the leaden rail, seven tongues of flame did shine o’er the lines of steel.
By each shining blade a prayer was said that to Ireland her sons be true,
And when morning broke still the war flag shook out its fold in the foggy dew.
It was England bade our wild geese go that small nations might be free.
But their lonely graves are by Suvla’s waves on the fringe of the gray North Sea.
But had they died by Pearse’s side or fought with Cathal Brugha,
Their names we’d keep where the Fenians sleep ‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew.
The bravest fell and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year.
And the world did gaze with deep amaze at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew.
Ah, back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore,
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more.
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I’d kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew.