Festschrift for Tadhg Foley
Irish Voyages and Visions: Pre-figuring, Re-configuring Utopia Tom Moylan 239
Irish Voyages and Visions: Pre-figuring, Re-configuring Utopia Tom Moylan Father, embark in the boat and let us sail westwards to the island which God called the Promised Land of the Saints which God will give to those who come after us at the end of time. — Brendan, Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopia. — Oscar Wilde, ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ The land sustaining us seemed to hold firm Only when we embraced it in extremis. All I believed that happened there was vision. — Seamus Heaney, ‘The Disappearing Island’ I From early Irish literature, with its Celtic Otherworld and Christian Heaven, the anticipation of an alternative space resonates (albeit trans- formed, and refunctioned) through the centuries. In the aisling poetic tradition, the other place is the Ireland of the past, lost and gone, but still arousing affiliation, and sometimes hope, for its revival. In the ballad tradi- tion, while familiar, the local valleys, rivers, and villages celebrated in song become idealized sites of joy and happiness that sustain and at times inspire 240 Tom Moylan the writer/singer in the generally darker present. And in the political realm, the anticipation of a nation, lost or not yet won, is evoked in songs, mani-...
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