Last night the missus and I watched Ondine, a selkie-themed movie out of Ireland (and the holy land of Ireland), casting Colin Farrell in the decidedly unglamorous role of Syracuse (aka: Circus), a down-at-his-luck fisherman who drags an unconscious young woman out of his net. The identity of the girl is a mystery until the end, although Syracuse’s daughter Annie – played with elfin grace by young Alison Berry – clearly believes that the eponymous Ondine (the curiously accented and winsome Alicia Bachleda) is indeed a seal woman come to shed seven tears and live seven years with her father, the great majority of that time padding around in Victoria’s Secret underthings, not that your humble scribe objected. Annie also believes that Ondine has the power to heal her from a kidney condition that’s wasting the younger girl away, and although there is indeed healing of many sorts, it’s an Irish movie after all, so not everything ends happily for all involved.
If you’re not already accustomed to following the music of the Irish brogue, you may well miss a quarter of the dialogue, for it’s laid on thick as butter on soda bread. And if there’s anything more poetically beautiful Alicia Bachleda in varying stages of deshabille, it’s the gorgeous Irish countryside lovingly treated by writer and director Neil Jordan. The combination of the two were magical, and I believe the Hobbit even half way agreed, for she said as much herself, albeit at a seaside vista which omitted any portrait of the Polish actress.
It’s funny how chains of associations run through your head, for in reply I offered, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry,” which no doubt left the missus a wee bit befuddled, for the one thing had nothing much to do with the other, but this is not so unusual as to be remarkable, for bless her heart she’s known me many years.
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all: The parish of rich women, physical decay, Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry. Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still, For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives In the valley of its making where executives Would never want to tamper, flows on south From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, A way of happening, a mouth.
In the early 1990s, with the trajectory of my life going forward almost locked in, there was civil unrest in my soul that, for a very brief time, broke out in open rebellion, hurling the little streets upon the great. It was then that I really discovered Yeats, and found that he had been there first in every way, and all of it flashed again through my mind’s eye, his unrequited love for Maud Gonne, his hatred of the brutal Major John MacBride, a rogue even by the Irish standard who Yeats eventually found a way to forgive.
And so I awoke this morning with the afterimages of that kaleidoscope still flashing on the screen of my mind’s eye, and set to research these things linked here and there throughout this post, the kind of thing that took me days at the library to learn in the old days of the early 1990s filling up a Saturday morning indeed until I found this: The National Library of Ireland’s interactive life and works of the poet, and if you’ve got a tenth of the madness in you yourself, abandon all hope ye who enter here.
For it’s lost I am, lost utterly.
(Oh, and for the curious or equally befuddled, it all worked out all right in the end: Horseman pass by.)