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International Reflective Writing


Michael Collins

Irish Patriot. 1890-1922
Commander-in-Chief, Irish Free State Army

On 16 October 1890 Michael Collins was born near Sam's Cross, a tiny hamlet in West Cork, named after Sam Wallace, a local highwayman. Sam's Cross lies between Rosscarbery and Clonakilty. Here, in a picturesque valley between river and sea, the young Michael grew up. As a lad, he spear-fished for salmon in the river and played among the cliffs above Black beach and at Cliodhna's Rock. But, as was typical of the times, Michael never learned to swim.

Michael's father, Michael John Collins was sixty years old when he married a local girl, Marianne O'Brien. Marianne was only twenty-three, but they were apparently happy and went on to have eight children. Michael, the youngest, was born when his father was seventy-five.

Michael Collins with his mother, Grandmother O'Brien, sister Mary and brother Johnie

Michael's father was a farmer by trade, not rich, but living comfortably for the times on a holding of ninety acres. The farm was called Woodfield after a hill in the area. When Michael was six, his father died.

Michael attended national school at Lisavaird, and the schoolmaster there was to have a large influence on Michael's life. For this schoolmaster, Denis Lyons, was an active member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret organisation dedicated to ousting the British from Ireland, by force if necessary. Lyons and the local blacksmith, James Santry, another Fenian, were Michael's first tutors in giving him a sense of pride of the Irish as a race. Throughout Michael Collins' brief life, Irishness was the thing that held the greatest meaning for him.

Big for his age, Michael had a keen mind as well as a fit, athletic body. He loved to read. His sister, Mary Ann, heightened his interest in the struggle for nationalism, and because of her, he devoured the writings of men such as poet and Nationalist, Thomas Davis. Worried that he might fall in with a bad sort, his mother sent him to Clonakilty to study for the Post Office examinations and to live with his sister Margaret. Here he worked briefly for his brother-in-law who owned the West Cork People, a newspaper of the area. Michael learned typesetting and wrote articles of local sporting events. After a year and a half, he went to London where he lived with his sister Hannie, in West Kensington and worked for the Postal Savings Bank in West Kensington. He was fifteen. Michael would spend the next nine years in London.

He was active in the Gaelic Athletic League and in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). Later, Michael Collins was to become first the secretary and then the president of the IRB.

In 1916, Michael returned to Dublin to take part in the planned insurrection. He received a Volunteer's uniform and as Captain Michael Collins he was second in command to Joseph Mary Plunkett in the General Post Office during Easter Week. Collins made no secret that he admired the realism of men like Sean Mac Diarmada more than the aesthetic Padraig Pearse. And though he played a minor part in the Rising, his sense of duty and clear-headedness were remembered.

Following the Rising, Michael, as a prisoner of war, was sent to Richmond Barracks and later to Frongoch internment camp in Wales. He returned home to Ireland in December 1916. But it was at Frongoch where Michael Collins' ability as an organizer became recognized. And immediately following his release, he rebuilt the IRB.

In 1917, he was elected to the Sinn Fein executive.During 1917 and 1918, his activities included: creating an intelligence network, organising a national loan to fund a rebellion, creating an assassination squad ("The Twelve Apostles") and an arms-smuggling operation. By 1920, Michael Collins was wanted by the British and had a price of #10,000 stg. on his head.

In 1919, Michael Collins personally, with the help of his friend Harry Boland, another IRB man, went to Lincoln gaol in England to help Eamon de Valera escape. And, during the time de Valera was in America trying to raise money for Sinn Fein, Michael risked his life to regularly visit de Valera's wife Sinead and their children. Michael had a life-long love for older people and for children.

In January 1919, the Anglo-Irish War began with the first shots being fired at Soloheadbeg. Over the next year, the Royal Irish Constabulary became the target of a Sinn Fein terror campaign. Michael Collins orchestrated this campaign. He felt there would be much to gain by provoking England to war.

By mid-1919, the IRB had infiltrated the leadership of the Volunteers and were directing its pace on the violence. Michael Collins had been made President of the IRB Supreme Council. At the same time, he was Minister for Finance in the Dail government and the commander of the IRA. In June of that year, de Valera left for America and Michael Collins became acting President after Arthur Griffith's arrest in December 1920.

Although Collins and de Valera co-operated, there were differences between them. After the Easter Rising, de Valera had not rejoined the IRB. Cathal Brugha, de Valera's Minister for Defence in the Dail, resented Collins' popularity and his influence over the Volunteers. In an effort to assert control, Brugha had the Volunteers declared the Army of the Irish Republic (IRA).

Britain responded with violence. Special forces were sent over to impose curfews and martial law on the Irish. These forces became known as the Black and Tans after a popular Limerick hunt group, and because of their dark green and khaki uniforms. Another force of veterans from the Great War, called the Auxiliaries, joined them. Thus began a pattern of assassination and reprisal. The IRA employed guerilla tactics, using 'flying columns' to attack British troops. Their knowledge of the countryside made up for their lack of arms. The initial distaste for the killing of RIC men by the IRA gave way to outrage at the savageness of the Crown forces. The reprisals had the effect of identifying the British as the oppressors of the Irish people.

On 21 November 1920 Michael Collins' squad assassinated 14 British officers, effectively destroying the British Secret Service in Ireland. In reprisal, the Black and Tans fired on a crowd watching a football match at Croke Park. Twelve people were killed, including one of the team players. The day became known as Bloody Sunday. News of this and other horrors became known throughout the world.

Harry Boland and Michael Collins

During this period, Michael, who in the 1918 general election had been elected to Parliament representing South Cork, and Harry Boland, the MP for Roscommon, each vied for the affections of a Longford girl, Catherine Brigid, or more commonly, Kitty Kiernan. From the latter half of 1921 until his death, Michael and Kitty exchanged more than 300 letters. By year's end, Michael had succeeded in winning the fair Kitty and they became engaged.

In May of 1921, the IRA set ablaze the Dublin Custom House, but Crown forces arrived in time to capture nearly the entire Dublin IRA Brigade. After this action, the IRA were desperately short of men and weapons, but at the same time, the British were completely demoralised with public opinion increasingly against continued repression. The commander of His Majesty's Crown forces in Ireland advised David Lloyd George to 'go all out or get out.' This began the treaty talks.

On 12 July 1921, the day after a truce was signed, de Valera led a delegation to London for exploratory talks with the British Prime Minister. These talks broke down after irreconcilable differences developed over the issue of an Irish Republic--a concession Lloyd George was not about to give.

In September of that year, de Valera was elected President of the Irish Republic and he offered to negotiate as representative of a sovereign state. Lloyd George refused. He would allow peace talks only with a view of how Ireland might reconcile their national aspirations within a framework of the community of nations known as the British Empire.

Knowing that neither a Republic nor a united Ireland could be won at such a conference, de Valera refused to attend. Instead, he sent Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins to head the Irish delegation. Neither Griffith nor Collins wanted to go. Michael Collins declared that he was a soldier, not a politician, but the issue went to the Cabinet and was decided by de Valera's casting vote.

Collins in London on his way to the treaty negotiation

De Valera was the most experienced negotiator, but he chose instead, to send others to parley against the far more experienced British team. They were no match for the cunning Lloyd George, who was called the "Welsh Wizard." One historian called it the worst single decision of de Valera's life.

Still, under tremendous pressure, the Irish delegation, with Collins and Griffith as chief negotiators, pressed for a united Ireland. Differences within the Irish delegation added to the difficulty, but Britain's refusal to consider anything less than dominion status, excluding Ulster created additional conflict. Michael Collins knew that a Republic that included Ulster was not possible under the present conditions, but he hoped for a boundary commission that would redraw the border to include much of Catholic Fermanagh and Tyrone in the newly created Free State. This left the problem of the Oath of Allegiance.

A reworded oath might pass a Dail vote, Collins concluded, and though opposed by de Valera, would pave the way for future concessions once a British troop withdrawal was effected. Reluctantly, the delegation signed. Michael Collins knew it would be received badly in Dublin, but he decided that a step toward Irish independence was preferable to an all-out war that would ensure more bloodshed. Michael Collins spoke prophetically when, after signing the treaty he said, "...I tell you, I have signed my death warrant."

The vote in favor of accepting the treaty was 64 to 57. Two days later, de Valera resigned his presidency and Arthur Griffith was elected in his place. A provisional government was formed in January 1922. Michael Collins was elected Chairman. Dublin Castle was surrendered to Michael Collins.


Across the country, the IRA split into pro-Treaty or anti-Treaty forces. Many followed Collins, accepting that the Treaty gave the country the freedom to win freedom. Richard Mulcahy, the Minister of Defence, transformed these loyal troops into the Free State Army, while the anti-Treaty forces became known as the Irregulars.

Collins made every effort to avoid a civil war. He drafted a new constitution which he hoped would be acceptable to the Republicans. The rebels had been Collins' comrades-in-arms and he desperately wanted to avoid such a tragedy, but his efforts failed. In a move to dislodge Republican troops who had taken over the building, on June 28th, Collins ordered the shelling of the Four Courts.

In a controversial move, he armed both pro- and anti-Treaty IRA members in the North to defend the Catholic population, but by resorting to violence against the Treaty terms in the North, he legitimised armed resistance in the South. On 6 July 1922, the Provisional Government appointed a Council of War and Collins became Commander-in-Chief of the national Army.

Opponents of the Treaty rallied to the cause. Fighting broke out in Dublin and Cathal Brugha was killed. The ten-month civil war had begun. The first phase was bloody and brief. By August, the better-equipped government forces had driven the Irregulars out of the main cities and towns, but the Republicans controlled much of the country area to the south and west.

On 12 August 1922, Arthur Griffith died of a massive hemorrhage. He had never recovered from the strain of the Treaty negotiations.

Eight days later, though ill with the stomach trouble that had plagued him for several months and suffering from a bad cold, Michael Collins left on a mission to visit troops in his home county of Cork. Warned not to go, he told his companion, "They wouldn't shoot me in my own county." As before, the words proved prophetic. Depressed and ill, he set out, some say, to try to end the fighting. At any rate, he visited several anti-Treaty men as well as inspecting various barracks. On the last day of his life, 22 August 1922, he set out from Cork in a convoy that passed through Bandon, Clonakilty, and Rosscarbery on its way to Skibbereen. He stopped at Woodfield, and there in the Four Alls, the pub situated across the road from the house where his mother had been born, he stood his family and escort to the local brew--Clonakilty Wrastler. On the return trip they again passed through Bandon. Michael Collins had only twenty minutes more to live. Around eight o'clock, his convoy was ambushed at a place known as Beal na mBlath--the mouth of flowers. Only one man was killed--Michael Collins. It is thought that Irregulars did the shooting, but some say that it might have been his own men. To this day, there is controversy about what actually happened.

Stunned that anything could have happened to 'the Big Fellow' whose fame was, by now, legendary, Collins' men brought his body back to Cork where it was shipped to Dublin. His body lay in state for three days in the rotunda. The Belfast-born painter, Sir John Lavery, painted Collins in death, as he had in life. Tens of thousands filed past his casket to pay their respects, and even more lined the Dublin streets as the cortege made its way to Glasnevin for the burial.

There have been many famous Irish patriots before him, and a few since, but none conjures up as much emotion and mystery as the man who, in a span of six short years, brought a country from bondage to a position where she could win her freedom. There are few left alive who remember Michael Collins, but his shape looms large on the Irish horizon.

Michael Collins' Writing

Aspirations for the Future
 August 1922 

The following thoughts of Michael Collins which he penned in August 1922 give an insight into his opinions on Irish people; their aims and aspirations; and on his own hopes for a nation rich in mind and body and character which would have its priorities right :-

"The chance that materialism will take possession of the Irish people is no more likely in a free Ireland under the Free State than it would be in a free Ireland under a Republic or any other form of Government. It is in the hands of the Irish people themselves. What we hope for in the new Ireland is to have such material welfare as will give the Irish spirit freedom to reach out to the higher things in which the spirit finds its satisfaction. We want such widely diffused prosperity that the Irish people will not be crushed by destitution into living practically the lives of the beasts.

"Our object in building up the country economically must not be lost sight of. That object is not to be able to boast of enormous wealth or of a great volume of trade for their own sake. It is not to see our country covered with smoking chimneys and factories. It is not to show a great national balance sheet, nor to point to a people producing wealth with the self-obliteration of a hive of bees. The real riches of the Irish nation will be the men and women of the Irish nation the extent to which they are rich in body and mind and character.

"What we want is the opportunity for everyone to be able to produce sufficient wealth to ensure these advantages for themselves. We must be true to facts if we would achieve anything in this life.‘We must be true to our ideal, if we would achieve anything worthy. The Ireland to which we are true, to which we are devoted and faithful, is the ideal Ireland, which means there is always something more to strive for. The true devotion lies not in melodramatic defiance or self-sacrifice for something falsely said to exist, or for mere words and formalities, which are empty, and which might be but the house newly swept and garnished to which seven worse devils entered in. It is the steady, earnest effort in face of actual possibilities towards the solid achievement of our hopes and visions, the laying of stone upon stone of a building which is actual and in accordance with the ideal pattern. In this way, what we can do in our time; being done in faithfulness to the tradition of the past, and to the vision of the future; becomes significant and glorified beyond what it is if looked at as only the day’s momentary partial work.

"This is where our Irish temperament, tenacity of the past, its vivid sense of past and future greatness, readiness for personal sacrifice, belief and pride in our race, can play an unique part, if it can stand out in its intellectual and moral strength, and shake off the weaknesses which long generations of subjection and inaction have imposed upon it."
‘Let the nation show its true and best character; use its courage, tenacity, clear swift intellect; its pride in the service of the nation ideal as our reason directs us."

Source:  View all of Michael Collins writings at this site.

Francis Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge (1887–1917) was an Irish war poet from County Meath. Sometimes known as the "poet of the blackbirds", he was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I. He enlisted because he considered that Ireland's interests were better served by British victory, but the Easter Rising of 1916 put paid to that belief, and Ledwidge began to cause problems for the British: having outstayed home leave, he was court-martialled and demoted, yet he returned to France and served with great merit in 1917.

After Court Martial

My mind is not my mind, therefore
I take no heed of what men say,
I have lived ten thousand years before
God cursed the town of Nineveh.

The present is a dream I see 
Of horror and loud sufferings,
At dawn a bird will waken me
Unto my place among the kings.

And though men called me a vile name,
And all my dream companions gone, 
'Tis I the soldier bears the shame,
Not I the king of Babylon.

A Soldier Grave

Then in the lull of midnight, gentle arms
Lifted him slowly down the slopes of death
Lest he should hear again the mad alarms
Of battle, dying moans, and painful breath.

And where the earth was soft for flowers we made
A grave for him that he might better rest.
So, Spring shall come and leave it seet arrayed,
And there the lark shall turn her dewy nest

In France

The silence of maternal hills 
Is round me in my evening dreams; 
And round me music-making rills 
And mingling waves of pastoral streams.

Whatever way I turn I find 
The path is old unto me still. 
The hills of home are in my mind, 
And there I wander as I will.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Dublin. His father was a lawyer and a well-known portrait painter. Yeats was educated in London and in Dublin, but he spent his summers in the west of Ireland in the family's summer house at Connaught. The young Yeats was very much part of the fin de siècle in London; at the same time he was active in societies that attempted an Irish literary revival. His first volume of verse appeared in 1887, but in his earlier period his dramatic production outweighed his poetry both in bulk and in import. Together with Lady Gregory he founded the Irish Theatre, which was to become the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief playwright until the movement was joined by John Synge. His plays usually treat Irish legends; they also reflect his fascination with mysticism and spiritualism. The Countess Cathleen (1892), The Land of Heart's Desire (1894), Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), The King's Threshold (1904), and Deirdre (1907) are among the best known.

After 1910, Yeats's dramatic art took a sharp turn toward a highly poetical, static, and esoteric style. His later plays were written for small audiences; they experiment with masks, dance, and music, and were profoundly influenced by the Japanese Noh plays. Although a convinced patriot, Yeats deplored the hatred and the bigotry of the Nationalist movement, and his poetry is full of moving protests against it. He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1922. Yeats is one of the few writers whose greatest works were written after the award of the Nobel Prize. Whereas he received the Prize chiefly for his dramatic works, his significance today rests on his lyric achievement. His poetry, especially the volumes The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), and Last Poems and Plays (1940), made him one of the outstanding and most influential twentieth-century poets writing in English. His recurrent themes are the contrast of art and life, masks, cyclical theories of life (the symbol of the winding stairs), and the ideal of beauty and ceremony contrasting with the hubbub of modern life.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969.

The Second Coming

The poem uses Christian imagery regarding the Apocalypse and second coming as allegory to describe the atmosphere in post-war Europe.

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

"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 Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, 
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
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." (2249).

On Being Asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these
A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A youn girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter's night.

William Butler Yeats: Blood And The Moon

William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet, dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn founded the Abbey Theatre, serving as its chief during its early years. In 1923, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." He was the first Irishman so honored. Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers whose greatest works were completed after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929).

Yeats was born and educated in Dublin, but spent his childhood in County Sligo. He studied poetry in his youth, and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and those slowly paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as to the lyricism of the Pre-Raphaelite poets. From 1900, Yeats's poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. Over the years, Yeats adopted many different ideological positions, including, in the words of the critic Michael Valdez Moses, "those of radical nationalist, classical liberal, reactionary conservative and millenarian nihilist".

Blood and the Moon

BLESSED be this place,
More blessed still this tower;
A bloody, arrogant power
Rose out of the race
Uttering, mastering it,
Rose like these walls from these
Storm-beaten cottages --
In mockery I have set
A powerful emblem up,
And sing it rhyme upon rhyme
In mockery of a time
HaIf dead at the top.
Alexandria's was a beacon tower, and Babylon's
An image of the moving heavens, a log-book of the
sun's journey and the moon's;
And Shelley had his towers, thought's crowned powers
he called them once.
I declare this tower is my symbol; I declare
This winding, gyring, spiring treadmill of a stair is my
ancestral stair;
That Goldsmith and the Dean, Berkeley and Burke
have travelled there.
Swift beating on his breast in sibylline frenzy blind
Because the heart in his blood-sodden breast had
dragged him down into mankind,
Goldsmith deliberately sipping at the honey-pot of his
And haughtier-headed Burke that proved the State a
That this unconquerable labyrinth of the birds, cen-
tury after century,
Cast but dead leaves to mathematical equality;
And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a
That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its
farrow that so solid seem,
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its
Saeva Indignatio and the labourer's hire,
The strength that gives our blood and state magnani-
mity of its own desire;
Everything that is not God consumed with intellectual

The purity of the unclouded moon
Has flung its atrowy shaft upon the floor.
Seven centuries have passed and it is pure,
The blood of innocence has left no stain.
There, on blood-saturated ground, have stood
Soldier, assassin, executioner.
Whether for daily pittance or in blind fear
Or out of abstract hatred, and shed blood,
But could not cast a single jet thereon.
Odour of blood on the ancestral stair!
And we that have shed none must gather there
And clamour in drunken frenzy for the moon.

Upon the dusty, glittering windows cling,
And seem to cling upon the moonlit skies,
Tortoiseshell butterflies, peacock butterflies,
A couple of night-moths are on the wing.
Is every modern nation like the tower,
Half dead at the top? No matter what I said,
For wisdom is the property of the dead,
A something incompatible with life; and power,
Like everything that has the stain of blood,
A property of the living; but no stain
Can come upon the visage of the moon
When it has looked in glory from a cloud.


John O'Donohue

John O'Donohue (1 January 1956 – 4 January 2008) was an Irish poet, author, priest, and Hegelian philosopher. He was a native Irish speaker, and as an author is best known for popularizing Celtic spirituality.

O'Donohue's first published work, Anam Cara (1997), which means "soul friend" in Gaelic, was an international bestseller and catapulted him into a more public life as an author and much sought-after speaker and teacher, particularly in the United States. O'Donohue retired from the priesthood in 2000. O'Donohue also devoted his energies to environmental activism, and is credited with helping spearhead the Burren Action Group, which opposed government development plans and ultimately preserved the area of Mullaghmore and the Burren, a karst landscape in County Clare.Just two days after his 53rd birthday and two months after the publication of his final complete work, Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, O'Donohue died suddenly in his sleep on January 4, 2008 while on holiday near Avignon, France, at the age of 52.

For Equilibrium, a Blessing

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore, 
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul. 

As the wind loves to call things to dance, 
May your gravity by lightened by grace. 

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth, 
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect. 

As water takes whatever shape it is in, 
So free may you be about who you become. 

As silence smiles on the other side of what's said, 
May your sense of irony bring perspective. 

As time remains free of all that it frames, 
May your mind stay clear of all it names. 

May your prayer of listening deepen enough 
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.

Source: John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Invocations and Blessings

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939 at Mossbawn, a family farm, situated in County Derry, 30 miles northwest from Belfast. He enrolled at Queen's College in Belfast and took a first in English in 1961. In 1963, he became a lecturer in English, at St. Joseph's College. Quickly, he began to write and joined a poetry workshop under the guidance of P. Hobsbaum, along with D. Mahon, M. Longley and M. Devlin; and published his work in university magazines. In 1965, he married Marie Devlin and his first son was born a year afterwards. He also became a lecturer in modern English literature at Queen's College, Belfast, and his first book, Death of a Naturalist, was published by Faber and Faber. Between 1967 and 1981, his different books won an amazing amount of awards and he gave many readings, both in England and in the United States. In 1981, he became a visiting professor at Harvard, and he cofounded Field Day Publishing with B. Friel in 1983. In 1978, a friend of his was killed by a bomb left by the IRA in a protestant pub; in order to transcribe his reactions to such an event, he wrote a poem entitled "Casualty." His mother also died in 1984, and his emotions were then set down in his poem "Clearances."  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995.


'We were killing pigs when the 

Yanks arrived. 
A Tuesday morning, sunlight 
and gutter-blood Outside the slaughter house.
From the main road 
They would have heard the screaming, 
Then heard it stop and had a view of us 
In our gloves and aprons coming 
down the hill. 
Two lines of them, guns on their
shoulders, marching. 
Armoured cars and tanks and open jeeps. 
Sunburnt hands and arms.
Unnamed, in step,

Hosting for Normandy. 
Not that we knew then 
Where they were headed, standing

there like youngsters 
As they tossed us gum and tubes of coloured sweets.'


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