The Celtic deity Dagdá, the Radiating God, the 'Good-at-Everything' God.

Or, Nothing So Urgent as Mañana
It is both instructive and sobering to recognize how stupid and automatic one can be. I have been avoiding Ireland for nearly 60 years. Mainly because for 40 years I have been bored to death by bar-bores in McSorley’s wonderful tavern in the Bowery, and by lesser mick-professionals in Boston, Washington, and Chicago. So, this March our Manchester friend (half-Irish), Mike Harding, came to Highlands, NC during the course of a safari through the South, documenting mountain music, cajun music, river music, and many sorts I’ve never heard of. As I cast a few vague aspersions on the Old Sod, the Emerald Isle, the Land of Blarney, Mike interrupted. Mr. Harding, a self-styled "myopic, poisonous dwarf," is a very famous comedian, entertainer, and folk musician in the North of England. And a very good friend, so he said: "You ponced-up, ignorant bastard, I’ll take you to Ireland and open your bloody eyes!" So he did just that.
What had I known about Ireland? A couple of gorgeous symphonies by two transplanted Anglo-Irish composers, Arnold Bax (who lived at Glencolumbrille in County Donegal) and Jack Moeran (who lived at Kenmare in County Kerry); and a few anthology pieces like "May-time," by an unknown Celtic master of the 9th or 10th century, in a prose translation by Kenneth Jackson. I know this is the 1980s and no one wants to read poetry, but this is so beautiful you’re going to have to endure three short sections:
"the smooth sea flows... season when the ocean falls asleep; flowers cover the world."
"bees, whose strength is small, carry with their feet a load reaped from the flowers; the mountain allures the cattle; the ant makes a rich meal."
"a flock of birds settles... the green field re-echoes, where there is a brisk, bright field."
One August Sunday evening, Mike Harding, Tom Meyer, and I flew from Manchester on RyanAir to Dublin. We hired a car from a firm with a somewhat lilting, joke name (Dan Dooley) and went into the city to our hotel, Buswells, on Molesworth Street. (Telephone: 01-764013.) A bit creaky and pokey for what you pay. Mike prefers Blooms Hotel, in Anglesea Street. (Telephone: 01-715622.) If you want to spend a lot of money, there is the Shelbourne Hotel, on St. Stephen’s Green. (Telephone: 01-766471.) Next time, I think I’ll follow The Good Hotel Guide’s suggestion and try Kilronan House, 70 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2, "an upmarket guest house in the heart of Georgian Dublin, recommended for the fairly small but well-maintained rooms, the charm of the staff, and the excellent home-made bread and preserves for breakfast." (Telephone: 01-755266.) Buswells, to be fair, is superbly located: across the road from the National Museum; a couple of minutes from Trinity College and from St. Stephen’s Green. It seems to be favored by sedate American faculty wives with travel-worn husbands. In the Georgian Bar one evening I think we were treated to discourse between Professor Denis Donoghue and an academic gentleman from Vanderbilt University. The conversation was all Seamus this and Seamus that. I (almost) longed to intrude and say something tiresome like: "You boys sound like you need a mess of potcheen and some good old hillbilly-faggot poetry to get your heads straight."
the irish tell kerry
jokes the way the
english tell irish jokes
bottles of guinness destined
for kerry have labels
on the bottom saying
please open other end
Early next day we drove across the country on the N-6, heading for the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry. Nothing much to see until you cross a ridge west of Limerick and behold the distant mountains beyond Tralee. Interior Ireland is curiously continental in its scale, with town after town like deserted French agricultural villages. But what a change once past Tralee and onto the Dingle: absolute magic. In Dingle Town we stopped by An Café Liteartha for a snack and to pick up a copy of the excellent Visitors Guide to the Dingle Peninsula, by the poet, Steve MacDonogh. Then spent the afternoon, under rare sunshine, looking at antiquities.
(arranged from the excellent prose of Steve MacDonogh)
beside the road at Kilvickadownig,
near a bend,
stands a small schoolhouse;
close by, a bohareen (a little lane)
leads up off the road
a short distance along the bohareen
is a farmhouse
with a gate
beside it
behind the house
is a gallan,
or standing stone,
known as
‘The Stone
of the Moon’
two fields uphill,
just inside the fence,
is a stone
said to commemorate
‘The King
of the World’
On west to the promontory fort, Dunbeg, of Iron Age or Early Christian origins. Next you drive past a series of "Prehistoric Beehive Huts." Not that old, says Mr. MacDonogh, but old enough: clochans (circular enclosures with rectangular insides, surrounded by cahers, or encircling walls). From there the road inches around Slea Head with wonderful views of the Blasket Islands and past the tiny harbor of Dunquin. There is something of the look of the Big Sur Coast in this part of Dingle.
europe’s most westerly point
the blasket islands inishtooskert
right the locals say
looks like a dead
man hands on stomach
Past Slea Head two farmers were separating hay from the pestiferous hawkweed. They looked very much like hired hands in a Samuel Palmer sunset idyll. The sun was setting behind a few clouds— everything was red, gold, and brown. Mr. Harding’s Hasselblad was going full-tilt boogie.
We stayed near Ballyferriter for two nights at the Dun An Óir Hotel, which must have the finest setting of any member of the Best Western chain. A motel-ish but very nicely managed place. (Telephone: 066-56133.) Good place for children. Golf course, game rooms, cycling, walking, horseback riding, etc. One young lady of about 11 was affronted when the desk clerk wouldn’t let her rent a video of The Life of Brian. We did most of our eating back in Dingle, just six miles over the hills. The place to go is Doyle’s Seafood Bar, in John Street. John and Stella Doyle run this truly amiable establishment, with its kitchen range, flagged floors, rush matting, kitchen tables, and Sugan chairs. Some of her specialties are a twice-baked cheese soufflé; mille-feuilles of warm oysters; fillets of salmon with a sorrel sauce, served with pasta; baked fillets of black sole, stuffed with a salmon mousse; and hen lobster, from the tank, poached, and presented hot at the table with a fondue butter and nothing else. We drank a lot of California chardonnay and the bill for three was 99 Irish punts, including service. Doyle’s has opened eight bedrooms in its Townhouse next door. Prices are moderate. You’d better book ahead if you go in the summer season. The telephone is 066- 51174.
Back at the Dun An Óir Hotel a session of traditional music was heating up, with a big crowd on hand for the fiddle playing of Sean Keane and the pipes of Liam Og O’ Flynn. The indefatigable Mike sat in with them on guitar, filling the night with music— and filling himself with the ambrosial Guinness— until past four in the morning. To my untutored ear the distance between an Indian raga and an Irish reel is not far. There is a very useful little paperback on the subject, Irish Traditional Music, by Ciarán Carson (The Appletree Press Ltd, 7 James Street South, Belfast BT2 8DL). He quotes a proverb: "There are three ways of telling every story, but a thousand ways of singing every song." And he makes a wonderfully telling observation: "The same tune is never the same tune twice."
Mr. Harding somehow made it to breakfast and I had an itinerary planned for the poor man— one ancient stone and roofless church after another, with him nodding at the wheel of our sardine-sized Opel. Around Ballyferriter are numerous Early Christian sites. We chose probably the most notable: the monastic settlement at Reask with its cross-inscribed pillar stone; the Church at Kilmalkedar with fine Romanesque details, an alphabet stone, an ogham stone, and a sun-dial (?) stone in the graveyard; and the Gallarus Oratory, a dry-rubble hermitage of the 8th century that looks like an up-turned boat. It is incredibly well-preserved. Mike was beginning to flag, so we repaired to Bric’s Pub down the road and sought the nurture available from a couple pints of Guinness and listening to the locals speak the Gaelic Irish. Refreshed, we set out for Dingle. Tom and I ate lightly at the bar in Doyle’s. Mike said a nap was in order, so he set forth for a meadow by the harbor. An old lady soon woke him from a deep sleep, inquiring kindly about the state of his health. When he muttered that he was just fine, thank you, she nodded and promptly asked him if he then felt well enough to drive her into town. (Someone has commented that the Irish can make you laugh and drive you batty at the same time.)
the ogham inscriptions read
very few of these
as usual are translatable
We’d arranged to meet the poet Steve MacDonogh in a pub by the dock about five o’clock for some conversation and to discover, as Steve puts it, "the meaning of an untranslatable Irish word, "craic," which has all to do with enjoying yourself." In Yorkshire, country people speak of having "a bit o’ crack," but it is a rather bleak substitute for what we found in Kerry.
standing in mr james
flahive’s little pub and
paper shop a local
man uttered local wisdom
saying whatever you say
say nothing good luck
Next morning we were off over the Conor Pass road, heading for County Clare. We stopped in Listowel ("twinned with Shawnee, Kansas," a place I had no more heard of than I had of Listowel) so Mike could seek out a writer friend who ran a little pub. No luck, but we went into a restaurant called The Three Mermaids and had an absolutely delicious bowl of seafood chowder with brown bread. We came to find out during our trip that this simple meal was the one to go for almost everywhere. The alternatives are meat-and-two-veg in the dullest possible manner, or something trying to be up-market and not succeeding, despite the price. That afternoon we crossed the River Shannon by car ferry at Tarbert and explored the villages along the coast of Clare. And stayed overnight in the handsome little town of Ennis at another somewhat moteloid hotel, the West Country Inn (Telephone: 065-28421), but quite comfortable and saved by invariably friendly and concerned people at the desk. That night we dined at a very comfortable restaurant called The Cloister with a fine range of the local seafood. About 90 punts for three if the wine flows (and there are some forty to choose from).
The remains of the 13th century Francisan Friary are the thing to see in Ennis. Some very beautiful carvings of the Passion on the MacMahon Tomb of 1470. And, even better, in a small niche in the wall of the south transcept is a half-length figure of Christ with his hands bound before him, with the instruments of the Passion on either side. This is uncanny and moving in the way that Mattias Grünewald is. Near the Friary in Binden Street is a group of fine Georgian houses.
We headed next for the Burren, a unique area of carboniferous limestone covered in vast pavements of clints and grykes (clints are the blocks of stone, grykes are the open crevices) and turloughs (grassy hollows, sometimes extending over many acres. which fill with water from subterranean sources during wet weather). The Burren is considered the finest karst landscape of its type in Europe and days could be spent examining the flora which is unique to the place. But first we fortified ourselves on the seafood chowder, brown bread, and Guinness available at Bofey Quinn’s Pub in the village of Corofin. The weather was turning gray and soft, just right for more ancient stones and roofless churches with which to test Mr. Harding’s charity and patience. The church and round tower at Dysert O Dea are tucked away in fields and woods.
A Romanesque doorway has been reconstructed rather crudely. Some of the mongoloid human heads and feral creatures are not far from the carvings at Kilpeck in Herefordshire. In a neighboring field is a 12th century High Cross with a Crucifixion and a Bishop (St. Tola is suggested by the books, since it was he who founded a 6th century monastery on the site). From there west to Kilfenora, with its three famous High Crosses and superb l3th and 14th century effigies of bishops in the chancel of the cathedral. One of them looks very much like Bishop Brancusi— who would have thought he was Irish? Then it was time to head for Lahinch, our base for the night. We took advantage of clearing light and detoured via the Cliffs of Moher, 668 feet high at their maximum point. Five miles of splendid dark sandstone topped with black shale.
Michael Vaughan is the hotelier at the Aberdeen Arms Hotel in Lahinch (Telephone: 065-81100), and a most affable one at that. The clientele includes many international golfers who come to play the famous links by the beach, but tables full of glad-handing insurance executives from New Orleans are easy enough to avoid. Talk to Mr. Vaughan. He told us a wonderful anecdote about a philologist (structural linguist, transformational grammarian— you name it) who came to Ireland wanting to trace linkages with the Iberian Celts. He suggested to someone that the Spanish and the Irish had similar laid-back feelings, and asked if there was a Celtic word that was equivalent to mañana. "No," came the response, "we have no word which conveys that amount of urgency."
After dinner Michael Vaughan, Junior, kindly offered to drive us up the coast to the town of Doolin. There would be a session of music getting started.
"Doolin (Banjos)"
the elderly regular at
that mecca of traditional
seisiuns gus o’connor’s pub
where you can hear
the celebrated micko russell
on tin whistle answered
the question posed by
a young australian were
those three girls really
going to play the
saxophone electric guitar and
snare drum o indeed
yes yes you’ll like
it but we won’t
What a polite man was this Doolin regular. Our hearts sank as three sapphic terriers from Copenhagen let loose with "When the Saints Go Marching In." But, of course, this August week was the busiest of the year for tourism. The pub was filled with Danes, Germans, and Americans, for whom bad, loud, New Orleans music was worth much clapping and yelling at. Micko Russell’s introspective, plaintive music belongs in a secular church, consecrated to the lost god of listening and paying attention. So, we gave Micko a lift home and made a sober, early night of it.
Back across the Burren, with a bit of sunlight to pick out the limestone colorings. The burial cairn called Connachtach at Kilshanny near Lisdoonvarna; and the stone fort, Cahercommaun, a stone fort of three concentric circles, situated on a cliff edge. Driving through a village the Muse again struck:
both the childer and the dogeen
seem very intent, very busy in eire
and driving through
carran in the burren,
we encountered a spaniel bitch
and greyhound stuck together
in the middle of the road,
quite mortified they were
the old man on the bike
wasn’t interested;
the beautiful red-haired farm boy
smiling in the post office door
was very amused
A few miles further along the splendid limestone pavements, past splendid place names like Aras Mhuire, Faherlaghroe, Tobar Dearg, Cragballyconol, Poulaphuca, Scailp-an-tSrotha, and Sheshia, we located the ruins of the 13th century Cistercian abbey at Corcomroe, near the shore of Galway Bay. One of the Romanesque effigies of a benefactor, Conor na Siudaine O Brien (died 1267), has been wrongly interpreted as showing Conor smoking a pipe. Pipe or no pipe, one would be forgiven for also mistaking another effigy of an abbot for a work by a Chinese sculptor of Buddhist persuasion... Suddenly the heavens opened, the rain and mists came down. We spent the rest of a wet day seeing little but the road around Galway Bay, the edge of Galway City, and the way west, heading for Connemara. Our destination was the Renvyle House Hotel on a promontory overlooking the Atlantic. A comfortable, family-oriented hotel with plenty of games and sports. (Telephone: 095-43511.)
Once the house was owned by the poet, surgeon, and politician, Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty, the Buck Mulligan of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He wrote: "My house stands on a lake, but it also stands on the sea. Water lilies meet the golden seaweed. It is as if, in the fairy land of Connemara at the extreme end of Europe, the incongruous flowed together at last and the sweet and bitter blended. Behind me, islands and mountainous mainland share in a final reconciliation at this, the world’s end."
Sadly, for two days the rains kept at it and we hardly saw anything of the two mountain ranges, The Twelve Bens and the Maumturks. We were reduced to the pleasure of reading further in Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde, of visiting the excellent crafts shop at Letterfrack, and of supping Guinness in Humanity Dick’s Pub in Clifden. We noticed a sign advertising a performance of an entertainer known as "BIG TOM" at the Alcock Hotel, leading to mild speculation that we were in an area of Late-Celtic phallic worship. Common sense and a coven of black-garbed priests on holiday prevailed.
And the rain prevailed as we studied the maps and a route of yet more stones and ruins for Mr. Harding to endure. But, real glories. The first was the Stone of Turoe, removed from its original position by the Rath of Feerwore (a rath is an earth-banked ring fort), and placed in a field on a farm. This great Celtic stone in the ancient La Tène style is said to be the best example of ritual carving from the third or second century B.C. A pleasant old lady emerged from the farmhouse to ask us to sign the register and to offer gray, barely visible postcards of the sacred object. Mike asked her if it was made of limestone. "Oh no, sir, there won’t be any limestone within hundreds of miles of here." It would have been rude to correct the lady and suggest that one of Europe’s largest displays of carboniferous limestone, the Burren, began within fifteen miles of where we were standing. So, Mr. Harding kindly turned the conversation to the very large barn near the farmhouse: "Do you use the barn for hay?" "Why no, sir. We keep sheep in it." "You keep sheep in it?" "Yes, sir, they stay in there all year long and never come out." This had us so bemused that we dared not ask the old dear if sheep was a Galway word for what we ignorant foreigners called chickens .
On east on backroads to one of the marvels of the Irish Romanesque, the doorway of Clonfert Cathedral. The original monastery was founded here by St. Brendan in 563. The present church dates from circa 1160. (One loves the cryptic notes in most guidebooks. E.g.: "Among the famous names associated with the monastery are those of Cummine Fota and Cu-Chonnacht na Scoile (of the school) O Daly. Cummine, who died about 662, was the author of a Penitential. He lived in intimate converse with Comgan moccu Cherda, the fool of the Deise, who sang of Cnoc, Raffand (Knockraffon), and Heaven.") The great doorway contains six orders, an amazing collection of human heads, bizarre animals, foliage, and geometric shapes, quite as barbarous as Kilpeck in Herefordshire. The stonemasons enhanced their work by using sandstones of purple, yellow, brown, and gray color.
Only one more stop, Mike: up the east bank of the River Shannon to the superb site of the monastic center at Clonmacnois, County Offaly, founded in 548 by St. Ciaran, "who sought peace here when he abandoned his cell on Hare Island in Lough Ree." To reward our strength and diligence, the sun came out to highlight the remains of eight mediaeval churches, two round towers, three high crosses, two holy wells, and over four hundred early gravestones, and the lovely watermeadows of the Shannon. Bring a picnic, there’s enough to see to occupy half a day. (Some of the artifacts from Clonmacnois are now in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, including an astonishing bronze Crucifixion plaque of perhaps the late 11th century.)
Kulched out and totally knackered, we crept back to Dublin and our cubicles in Buswells Hotel. An indifferent meal in a restaurant in Merrion Street, some sedative Guinness, and an early night.
Breakfast at Bewley’s old-fashioned coffee house in Grafton Street. And a morning of strolling about to see a few of the sights: St. Stephen’s Green; St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dean Swift’s tomb; the Georgian pleasures of Merrion Square, where there is a plaque on No. 1 devoted to Oscar Wilde’s father: "Sir William Robert Wills Wilde, 1815-1876, aural and ophthalmic surgeon, archaeologist, ethnologist, antiquarian, biographer, statistician, naturalist, topographer, historian, folklorist, lived in this house from 1855 to 1876." And we also noted the existence of THE IRISH SCHOOL OF TRADITIONAL KUNG FU. Having had enough Irish stew and seafood chowder for one week, we left Mike to scour more music shops for esoteric CDs and walked to Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, 46 James’s Place, Lower Baggot Street, which is both a serious and stylish place to eat. Two set menus included such items as Brandade de Poisson Fumé et Ses Croutons; Fine Tranche de Saumon Grillée au Jus D’Hûitres; Rable de Lapereau aux Basilic; and Pièce de Boeuf Polée au Poivre Vert... With all the trimmings, a couple of Kirs, a bottle of Sancerre Rouge, a couple of Marc de Gewürztraminer, the bill was 57.85, Irish punts, including 15% service. Not a bad price, and a very good place. (Telephone: 01-764192.) Soon it was time to head for the airport and zip back to Manchester.
HIATUS HIATUS HIATUS HIATUS HIATUS HIATUS HIATUS HIATUS: this is not a Hiatus Hernia, just a bloody hiatus. After writing the above, I have allowed myself two whole months to reflect on the Irish Trip and on my having lived in England on and off for 26 years. I don’t know of any other literary American who has lived in the UK that long a time, particularly in the English countryside. Whether that means I can make any sense is another matter. From what follows, you may well want to ask why the hell do I stay there if I dislike it so much? Poets are touchy, ornery folks and shooting their mouths off is just part of the job. (Let it be said that I have written a whole book, Lord Stodge’s Good Thing Guide To Over 100 English Delights, and most of the pleasures encountered were architectural, from the 12th, 17th, and 19th centuries.) Well, I stay because Tom Meyer and I have put 18 years into the restoration of a 17th century stone cottage, Corn Close, and the making of a garden in Dentdale, Cumbria, one of the most sublime landscapes under the (occasional) sun. Dentdale offers endless footpaths and walking in every direction. It offers conversation with local shepherds; Theakston’s bitter beer; a chance to breathe the same Dales air that Frederick Delius once knew; a place to entertain our friends from America, from Europe, and even from England. Despite my ravings about England and the English, how could one have better friends than John Sandoe or Simon Cutts or Arthur Uphill or John and Astrid Furnival or Mike and Pat Harding? I name only a few. Anyway, five months a year is just right. By the time October ends, I have burnished and polished my Anglophobia to astonishing brightness. (Somehow, the unconscious, festering anti-Americanism of the British is too seldom remarked.) Then, we pack up and head back to the Carolina Blue Ridge for a winter of Jesse Helms and his pals. Which, in turn, makes us happy to flee to shambolic England every middle of May, time of the bluebells, bear garlic, and thorn blossoms.
So, what to say? I thought the Irish people were quite extraordinary, from start to finish. Let me brag on them before I unload on the Dim Brits. For one thing, they are extremely handsome, the boys and the girls, the men and the women. All those rosy cheeks— Willie Yeats said it was from sleeping alone in single beds, dreaming of romantic love... The Irish look like people . Not so the English, where the truth has been established long ago by childhood classics like The Wind in the Willows and all of Beatrix Potter. Everybody looks like a mole or a rat, or a badger, or a sheep, or a stoat, or a narrow-faced Border Collie. The Saxons run to nose; and to extraordinary vagueness of mind and membrum virile. The Greek word for it is meilikhoposthoi — it is a nearly terminal problem. Some of it has to do with the pathetic climate: wet, cold, miserable, disappointing— would you expect the people to be different? And yet, in Ireland the rain is no less, it comes a day earlier, as it sweeps over the island towards the east. The Sunday Times of London recently reported: "England is a horrible place with horrible people, horrible food, horrible climate, horrible class system, horrible cities and horrible countryside (Gloucestershire is now one big car park for Volvos with a few scattered trees)." — Stephen Pile. He is not far off. I keep a few quotes of my own. How about: "Not only is England a island, but so is every Englishman an island." That’s Novalis. Or William Beckford: "I sigh for the pestilential breath of an African serpent to destroy every Englishman who comes in my way."
Any American will thank his lucky stars that his ancestors cut out of this gray and stodgy insular place two centuries ago. The non-conformists and crazies (George Fox of the Quakers and Mother Ann Lee of the Shakers) got themselves on a boat, leaving the rump population to settle in to enjoy squabbling over the ghastly Class War. Imagination (with the exception of Wild Bill Blake and Sam "Shazam" Palmer, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, and damn few others) fled to the West. What’s left: a nation of Total Bodgers, a nation where everybody’s out of sorts, where nobody is at all comfortable in a yobbocracy going at half-speed and half-power. Go to Germany and look at the grouting in any of their space-age bathrooms. Then take a look at the workmanship on an English job— floors way out of level, broken tiles, bad painting, cracks in brand-new plaster. Why is this? In 1888 the statistics indicated that 7% of the population owned 84% of the wealth. In 1988, the figure is precisely the same. Why? Because only 7% of the population have university educations or advanced technical degrees. This means that 93% of the people are appallingly under-educated, leaving school at 16, at best, and going into penal servitude at Boots, the Chemists, or in local jobs with almost no apprentice system still intact. Richard Hoggart (The Uses of Literacy) suggests that the country is moving from the Old Class System to a new one based on Occupation. You get a trained population of about 10% (us , as they say); followed by 70% of poorly educated gits who are fed nothing but media pablum; followed by about 20% of people dangerously denied just about everything, ready to pull the whole lot down. We don’t even like to think about Them. But, we’d better! No political party in Britain ever talks of such developments, or seems willing to address them.
Stupid and outrageous to say? Well, just consider the behavior of the crowds at the recent European Soccer Cup. The Irish went to Germany and sang to themselves with immense enjoyment, and behaved pleasantly even when the national team went on to lose in the semi-finals. The Brits went barmy and fought in the streets and tried to kill people. The New Society is all about envy. It is extremely care-less. How often each day one hears the words "I don’t want to know," or "Dead boring, isn’t it?" or "Leave it with us"— evidence of a people out to lunch and on the nod. What do you make of a country where the towels refuse to absorb water, where the toilet paper slides, where toilets seldom flush, where showers never work, where half the people in the pub are instantly repulsed when anyone opens his or her mouth. In short, an ungenerous people, covert, wary of being touched, inclined to anger and depression. Besides fluoride, they ought to put testosterone in the water supplies. W.H. Auden said that England was a country in which no one seemed to feel very well. Ezra Pound said "England is a jew-owned deerpark, with tea rooms"— getting it half right, as usual. Asked what he liked best about British life, Ian Hamilton Finlay answered: "The quality of the despair." The Irish dislike the English so much that the bottled Guinness they export tastes of metal filings and weasel urine, instead of the soft, creamy, delicious substance they quaff.
Well, enough about the Tight Little Island, the Land of Stodge, the Sceptred & Sinking Isle, The Place of Anhedonia, or Nanny Thatcher’s Theme Park, just a few of the names one makes up. Go to Ireland. Good luck!
(Published by North Carolina Wesleyan College Press, Rocky Mount, NC, 1990)