Fall 1985 • Vol. VII No. 4 Book ReviewsOctober 1, 1985 |

Some Versions of Ireland: The Poetry of Tom Paulin and Paul Muldoon

We in this country had a bad time through the centuries when England did not like us. But words choke in the pen when one comes to describe what happened to us when the English discovered that we were rawther interesting peepul ek'tully, that we were nice, witty, brave, fearfully seltic and fiery, lovable, strong, lazy, boozy, impulsive, hospitable, decent, and so on till you weaken. FLANN O BRIEN It is this last adjective, "decent," with its suggestion of propriety and decorum, that chills. Originally referring to the notion of a proper fit, of a constricting seemliness, the word has become so firmly entrenched in the daily idiom that its jocular familiarity masks its abusive connotations. To discover decency in a people, as O'Brien, Ireland's inspired misanthrope, realized, is simply to recognize in their culture an innocuous and "interesting" version of your own most fundamental cultural assumptions. For American readers, Seamus Heaney has become the ambassador of contemp

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