“Hope and History Rhyme”

April 4, 2024

April 1916-April 2024

Perhaps the most well known and most frequently quoted lines in Seamus Heaney’s poems are these:

History says don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

The island of Ireland in the 20th century was a contrast of hope and despair. Since the first quarter of that century when artificially imposed separation of the island into two distinct countries came to be, hope lived in Irish hearts on both sides of the border along side the fear that reunification would never happen. Ignorance, hate and distrust, fed hopelessness and history did nothing to alleviate those fears. “Not in my lifetime”, was a lament heard for decades, even for a century. Injustice fueled the troubles, the deaths, the despair.

But now, “the longed for tidal wave of justice” is rising. Even those of us in our later years believe reunification can happen in our lifetime, indeed will happen in the first half of this century.

Ireland has changed. It is not the poor, insular, backward island it might have been before independence. It is now a vibrant, multicultural, sophisticated, well educated, influential, and respected European nation with confidence that its problems – and there surely are problems – can be overcome.

Now, it is, despite attempts to deny it, a moment when “hope and history rhyme”.

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