Into the Twilight

OUT-WORN heart, in a time out-worn,
Come clear of the nets of wrong and right;
Laugh heart again in the gray twilight,
Sigh, heart, again in the dew of the morn.
Your mother Eire is always young,
Dew ever shining and twilight gray;
Though hope fall from you and love decay,
Burning in fires of a slanderous tongue.


–“Into the Twilight,” WB Yeats.


It felt appropriate to start this blog with another Yeats poem, especially the above excerpt from “Into the Twilight.” I am currently in the midst of the twilight of my time in Ireland, as I will be returning to America in just a few short weeks. It is hard to believe that this year has passed by so quickly. I have done and seen a great deal; the memories of the past 10 months will stay with me for the rest of my life. Yet even with superficial similarities between the timeline of my own Irish experience and the title of this Yeats poem cast aside, similar themes persist when I reflect on the deeper meaning of those words written above. Specifically, I think of Yeats’s reference to an “out-worn heart,” and “mother Eire.”


Around this time one year ago, I was preparing for both a wedding and to spend a year in Ireland. I was also approaching the conclusion of my third year of medical school, traditionally held to be the most difficult of the four years spent pursuing an MD. It was a very busy and a very stressful time. While I was filled with joy and excitement at the prospect of a wedding and a move to Europe, I was feeling the effects of a particularly challenging academic year. I was looking forward to the change of pace and shift in focus that I knew would accompany my time in Ireland. In Ireland, the “out-worn heart” learned to laugh and to sigh once again. I was able to pursue long-held interests like the study of Irish language, Gaelic football, Irish history, and more.


My favorite experiences from this year have been those spent with family and those spent exploring my roots, learning more about where the people who came before me were from. Over the past nine months, I have seen the birthplaces of five of my great grandparents; I have walked around their hometowns, visited the graves of their parents, and tried to imagine what life was like for them in early 20th century Ireland. In a few weeks, when my parents and grandmother come to visit me shortly before my wife and I head home to the United States, we will visit the hometown of two other great grandparents, Thomas O’Brien and Anna Shanley, who were the parents of my grandmother who is coming to visit. When I first came to Ireland in 1998 with my family, we visited Grandma Anna’s childhood home in Leitrim; a photograph of this trip sits on my desk. When I return at the end of this year, I will recall that while my family’s story in Ireland stretches back generations, this constant pattern of rediscovery displays that “mother Eire is always young.”


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