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Kilcolman Castle in the County of Cork stood on the north side of a fine lake looking off across a plain to a fringe of wooded uplands, and commanding a view over half the breadth of Ireland. Once it had belonged to the Earl of Desmond, a champion of Irish freedom, but it had been lost to him in a recent rebellion which he had led against the government of England. It lay now a romantic old ruin, scarred and broken with the turbelencies of the past; and mid its shattered walls, as in some sequestered glade, lived one who sang sweetly, piped to the woods , and passed his days in peace and quiet like any shepherd among the flowery meadows.
Edmund Spenser was an English poet to whom the old castle had been given by the government. He had come to Ireland in 1580 as secretary to the Lord Deputy, and there he had remained holding one clerkship after another, dreaming his dreams, and all unconscious of the hatred that was smouldering round about him, like a seething volcano, in the hearts of the Irish people.
It was no small sacrifice to remain away from London in the days of Queen Elizabeth. No more to see Sir Philip Sidney, Spenser’s true ideal of knighthood! To be parted from that brilliant young dramatist, William Shakespeare! To hear of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and the exploits of Drake and Hawkins and Frobisher, only as a distant echo! But Spenser carried his own world with him wherever he went and he found high company in the very air that flowed around him.
One day his old friend, Sir Walter Raleigh, came along to pay him a visit. Spenser told him that he was writing a poem called The Faerie Queene. He had finished three books and he meant to write nine more, each one to have as hero a different knight who should represent some one of the principal virtues. Raleigh enthusiastically advised him to take these books to London and he himself presented the poet to the Queen. Now Spenser had already become famous through The Shepherd’s Calendar which he had published ten years before and the public received his new work with delight and admiration. How sweet was its melody, how abundant its fancy! Queen Elizabeth herself granted the poet a little pension. For two hundred years there had been no great poem written in the English language. The Faerie Queene was the first great work since the days of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Nevertheless Spenser was glad to leave London and go back to Kilcolman Castle, and he celebrated his return with a song called Colin Clout’s Come Home Again. By and by he fell in love with a lady named Elizabeth, and there was a long, long wooing but at last she answered him aye (yes!) and he sang the finest wedding song ever written in English. Beneath the evening star and the fair face of the moon he brought his lady home to be the mistress of his heart. For four happy years he lived with his wife and little children at Kilcolman Castle and the publication of three more books of the Faerie Queene raised him to the pinnacle of fame, though they brought him little money. Then alack! The volcano that had slumbered so long burst into eruption. While he had dreamed his dreams in the valley, fierce curses had been uttered against him from the hills around. The peasant folk remembered their Irish lord whom they had been wont to see come in his splendour to Kilcolman, and their souls were filled with hate, for memory of Lord Desmond. Rushing down on Kilcolman they plundered it and set it on fire. The poet, his wife and babies barely escaped the flames. In profound distress they went to London and shortly afterward Spenser died, to leave forever unfinished, his beautiful Faerie Queene.
The Castle Lady
SMACK! hee hee couldn’t resist!
Aon troigh amhain nior faghadh adumar
dheire on stat na adhbar leaptha
dobhearaid grasa daibh is aite
a leighion slan don Spainn ar eachtaibh
translation from Gaelic:
A foot of land has not been left in their possession nor even the makings of a bed,
as state-doled pittance. They will grant them now the favour of letting them go safe to Spain by proclamations.
-Daibhidh Ui Bhruadair, a Munster county poet.
All history is only one long story to this effect; men have struggled for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others, and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others.” William Graham Sumner, American sociologist and economist (1840-1920)
History must always be taken with a grain of salt. It is, after all, not a science but an art . -Phylis McGinley, American poet (1905-1978)
Here is a link for Kilcolman Castle:
(My official web site.)