Last night I dreamt I was in Ireland again. We were driving away from Dublin and heading toward Cashel town. As our car rounded a bend on the Dublin Road, I saw the ruins of a castle on a high hill in the distance. The hill was moss green grass scattered with brown patches and boulders. The hill and the spires of the castle rose to meet the clouds. The clouds were such a dark gray that they were almost blue but white patches stopped them from being threatening. The castle and its crosses were lonely and brokenhearted.
Somehow I found myself inside the walled grounds now and instead of peering out, I was looking up – up to the round tower and to the cathedral. And then out to the Irish high crosses and the graveyard. I remembered that more than eight hundred years ago, men had cut the crosses from sandstone and granite to act as boundary markers for sacred land.
The ancient kings of Ireland lived here at this summit called St. Patrick’s Rock and the Cashel of Kings for hundreds of years – until the Normans invaded. And then those reigns became part of the past.
In 1101, Muirichertach Ua Briain, the King of Munster, donated his fortress to the church which was only fitting because it was on this site that St. Patrick converted the previous King of Munster to Christianity in the fifth century.
I looked to the village and mountain beyond the grounds. A blackbird cried and I wanted to come back to the crosses, and I entered the chapel named after King Cormac MacCarthaigh.
I imagined what it was like to live here in the dark and the damp of Cormac’s Chapel in the Ireland of long ago. The fresco paintings inside were the earliest of their kind in this country that was more interested in sculpture and architecture than painting. Men were working to bring the ancient brush-to-wall images back to life after hundreds of years of cold, damp air, and decay.
At the very back of the darkness I saw a sarcophagus left by the Vikings. Its carved decoration showed two beasts intertwined, a symbol of eternal life.
I dreamt of the so long ago of Ireland. And through its history of struggles – with the Vikings, and the Normans, and the British, and themselves – the strong spirit of the Irish people has endured to live in the free Ireland of today.
From “Easter, 1916” by W. B. Yeats
“I write it out in verse –
MacDonagh and Mac Bride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”