‘Child of Our Times’ by Eavan Boland

Child Of Our Time

Yesterday I knew no lullaby

But you have taught me overnight to order
This song, which takes from your final cry
Its tune, from your unreasoned end its reason;
Its rhythm from the discord of your murder,
Its motive from the fact you cannot listen.

We who should have known how to instruct
With rhymes for your waking, rhythms for your sleep
Names for the animals you took to bed,
Tales to distract, legends to protect,
Later an idiom for you to keep
And living, learn, must learn from you, dead.

To make our broken images rebuild
Themselves around your limbs, your broken
Image, find for your sake whose life our idle
Talk has cost, a new language. Child
Of our time, our times have robbed your cradle.
Sleep in a world your final sleep has woken.

This poem was written by Eavan Boland ‘to commemorate a baby killed in the Dublin bombing’. In fact, two baby sisters, Jacqueline and Anne Marie O’Brien were killed as well as Baby Doherty. It’s some sort of an indictment at least, for the group – Justice for the Forgotten, that a poem has been written by an eminent Irish poet, in memory of the children who tragically died in the Dublin & Monaghan bombings. I worked for a short time in Fennessy’s shop at the weekends, right opposite where one of the bombings took place in Nth. Earl St. However – it would have been prior to the bombing. I was in London at the time it occurred, and have memories of Ireland being a very frightening country to live in, because of the troubles. Irish people also got a rough time in Britain, and some had to quickly pick up on the London accent in order to disguise themselves. Invariably, some couldn’t disguise their Irish looks, and stood out a mile, and were to the fore for taunting. For example, I remember accidentally skipping a queue at Big Mac’s beside Westminster Cathedral, as I was engrossed in conversation with some people who had attended a big charismatic meeting at the conference centre. I was told to go back to where I came from, that, the Irish were nothing but ‘trouble makers’. Mind you, the person had in all probability a lot to fear, seeing that there were always bomb-scares at nearby Victoria train station. So she had to get rid of the tension, by scapegoating any innocent Irish person who had inadvertently vexed her. I remember reminding her that Ireland and Britain were once all glued together and that it was the ice-age that had separated them from one another. So what the blazes was she talking about?

I was in Enniskillen on the day before the bombing, and at exactly the same time it went off to boot. I had gone there shopping with Mrs. McGinn, a Corkonian (and her young son, Kieran) who was married to a Cavan farmer. We resided in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan. So I can fully empathise with the chaps being interviewed by TG3, a decade after the atrocities. The poem,  as per usual is on the Leaving Cert English curriculum. So young students today will never forget their country’s cruel past, as they open their poetry books.


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