Nevada Appeal at 150: March 17, 1970: Oh, to be Irish |

Nevada Appeal at 150: March 17, 1970: Oh, to be Irish

Why do the Irish act the way they do on St. Patrick’s Day? An explanatory column by Hal Boyle, written in 1953, later became a scrapbook favorite and a popular greeting card. It is here presented again to a new generation of Irish admirers — or detractors.

What is it to be Irish? On 364 days of the year being Irish isn’t visibly different from being Scotch, French Italian, Jewish, Serbian, Dutch, or — yes, even English.

The Irishman pays his bills, complains against his taxes, does his work, and listens to his wife like the man of any other race.

But on this one day of the year — holy St. Patrick’s Day — the Irishman becomes an IRISHMAN.

And on this day you have to be Irish to know what it is to be Irish.

The outer signs, of course, can be seen by all. The Irishman overnight grows a foot taller and stalks the earth a giant. All traffic lights turn green before him, and if they don’t, he sees red.

But this air of majesty is only token evidence of interior change. The men of other races who envy the Irishman his bearing on St. Patrick’s Day would envy him far more if they could look inside the Irishman’s soul.

What is it to be Irish? How can you put the wonder of it into words? If a psychiatrist stretched himself out on his own warm couch after his last customer had gone home, and he dreamed of the man he himself would most like to be — well, he might be perfect, but he’d still be only half an Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day.

What is it to be Irish?

It is to have an angel in your mouth, turning your prose to poetry. It is to have the gift of tongues, to know the language of all living things. Does an Irishman pause and turn an ear to a tree? It is because on this day he wants to hear what one sleepy bud says to another as it opens its pale green hands to the warm sun of spring.

What is it to be Irish?

Oh, on this day it is music. Not just the cornet in the parading high school band, but the deep music of living, the low, sad rhythms of eternity. The Irishman hears the high song of the turning spheres, the dim lullaby of the worm in its cocoon. All the world is in tune, and he is in step with the tune, the tune that only he can hear.

What is it to be Irish?

It is to live the whole history of his race between a dawn and dawn — the long wrongs, the bird-swift joys, the endless hurt of his ancestors since the morning of time in a forgotten forest, the knock-at-the-heart that is part of his religion.

What is it to be Irish?

It isn’t only the realization that he descended from kings. It is the realization that he is a king himself, an empire on two feet striding in power, strolling continent of awe.

What is it to be Irish?

Why, on St. Patrick’s Day, to be Irish is to know more glory, adventure, magic, victory, exultation, gratitude and gladness than any other man can experience in a lifetime.

What is it to be Irish?

It is to live in complete mystic understanding with God for 24 wonderful hours.

This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.


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