Hope and Attention


Merrion Square seems at first glance to be just another pretty park full of lush trees with yellowing leaves getting ready to make their descent. The buildings surrounding the square are also quite lovely, with ironwork details and Georgian style doors and windows. These things can easily be admired just so, but knowing more history about this Square make it much more special. I am lucky that I brought Siobhán Kilfeather’s Dublin: A Cultural History along with me. The history that oozes from this book stimulates my mind and breathes new life into these surroundings. I can go to the corner house, 1 Merrion Square, and appreciate that this was Oscar Wilde’s childhood home. Gazing upon his home is Wilde himself, a captivating sculpture of jade, Norwegian thulite, and granite.


My favorite part of Marrion Square, should I absolutely have to choose one, would be the National Gallery of Ireland because of my passion for art. I wasn’t aware that W.B. Yeats had a painter for a brother, but indeed, here is his art! Kilfeather expresses a melancholic interpretation of The Liffey Swim (1923)in his aforementioned book. He points your attention to the crowd of people “rapt in hope and attention” (85), yet the swimmers are at quite a distance from these onlookers; therefore, Kilfeather questions how involved they truly are.  According to Kilfeather, Jack B. Yeats was enthralled by crowds because of their insight into individual and group identities and “by the particular forms of forgetting and remembering the self that occur during sporting events and other moments of spectatorship” (85). It is intriguing to speculate on how much we can lose ourselves amongst crowds, with our longing for connections. I love Kilfeather’s explanation and can see it clearly in Yeats’s work. The frantic and colorful strokes may fool you at first glance, but further reflecting on the paintings makes you feel the pessimistic tones. These paintings have put me in quite a pensive mood. I think I might take a second look at those trees in the center of the Square and see what my own paints can reveal.


  1. I agree with you Siobhán Kilfeather’s Dublin: A Cultural History dissects and informs the history of the place very well. Finding out some of the writers and noble prize winners that I have studied in school, have lived in Merrion Square is awesome. It’s an eye-opener learning such details as we can see what (from the place of living) has influenced their work, especially Oscar Wilde and his life long conflict with the Catholic church as he had to suppress his true desires (being Catholic) to fit the expectation of his father. This is seen in his book The Picture of Dorian Gray as the main protagonist (representing himself) fails to join his desired Catholic Church.

  2. Hi, Kristen! I also was unaware of W.B. Yeats’s very talented brother, so thank you for sharing, along with some of his work. I love the paintings you included and the quote about crowds. There’s a certain chaos in his strokes that blur precise details as if perfectly depicting the whir of a crowd and what it means to merely be “a face in the crowd.” Like you, I apparently detect the pessimistic tones of his work.

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