May your day be great


I thinkMay is my favourite month.  May is the month when the protagonist in “The Rocky Road to Dublin” sets off on his adventure.  In the more plaintive poem & song “On Raglan Road” the poet harks back to heady May days from his advanced position at the closing of the years of his life.

Apples blossom and the first food plants are emerging from the soil, bearing a promise of plenty.  The lambs and calves are born and there is new life and new energy everywhere.  The sun shines longer and we begin to get some real heat into the days.

This outpouring of new life reflected itself in times past in pagan May Day fertility rites, with lusty lads and lithe lassies cavorting about Maypoles.  Communal spring dancing is a feature of societies all across Europe.  They provided a reason for people to get out and about and for young adults to meet up and form couples.  The heavy spring work of ploughing and planting is done and there is an opportunity to celebrate and let the hair down before the haymaking begins.

A modern revision of these ancient rites is now re-enacted in the USA every year.  Not many young Americans are involved in ploughing and planting these days.  Instead they plough the library stacks and plant ideas onto college papers.  The date of the fertility rites has moved slightly, for reasons of academic planning, but the intent is the same.  Gangs of young adult men and women meet up to cavort every year at Spring Break.

Young adults always think their generation is new, exciting, dynamic and different, but in truth they follow very well worn paths.

 On Raglan Road; by Patrick Kavanagh

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew

That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;

I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,

And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge

Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,

The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –

O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known

To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone

And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.

With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now

Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow

That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –

When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.


As babies we have none of it, as children we want it not and as we age and grow weak and decrepit it slips away from us as our bodies let us down.  But for most of our lives we value our dignity.  If die we must at least let us die with our dignity intact.

Sadly this was not allowed to one young Indian woman who died in a hospital, a long way from home. Savita Halappanavar died from childbirth complications in a modern western hospital.  She was, as least in part, the victim of the medieval and sexist influence of the Catholic Church dominance of schools and hospitals in Ireland.  The chaotic state of abortion guidelines for the medical profession in Ireland is a throwback to the misogyny of a church which does not permit priests to marry, but tolerates their abuse of children.  Where is the dignity in that?

Half way around the world another Indian girl died in a hospital a long way from home.  Victim of a brutal gang rape and a subsequent assault designed to kill her in the most undignified way possible.  To add to her misery the police, instead of caring for her, argued with each other over juristiction at the scene.

And what of the rapists?  Products of a Delhi slum.  Do they have dignity?  Did they ever?

How can we protect dignity in others if we have never known it ourselves?  For this reason I am very proud of my 16 year old son, who is travelling to Kolkata in February.  His mission is to bring dignity to the street children of that city.  That is a gift that will last a lifetime, and more.  Once you give dignity to a child they will want to pass it on to their own children.

If you would like to know more about his trip you can follow his blog on wordpress:

and if you are moved to help him reach his target, press this link.  He is over three-quarters of the way there, so please help him make his target.

As for those two Indian ladies who died in such tragic circumstances, I offer a poem out of respect.  May they rest in peace and live long in the hearts of their loved ones.

Break, break, break ; by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Break, break, break,
         On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
         The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
         That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
         That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
         To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
         And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break
         At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
         Will never come back to me.