Once upon a time, there was a land that revered music and storytelling above all things. A land of wildest passions, where beauty and honor and loyalty were valued above riches. A land so blessed with beauty, with emerald fields and rocky crags and endless beaches, that poetry was born to every tongue.
But a curse fell on the land. And the people suffered. And suffered.
And suffered. They fled their land with sorrow, weeping as their green land slipped away, and they vowed to remember, to plant those fields, that music, that poetry so deeply in their hearts than any child born to their line would remember it, and be called to honor the land they were forced to leave. They took with them their music, the poetry in their souls, and even as they build new lives in a faraway place, they remembered.
They sang. They revered stories. They told tragic tales of warning to their children, and their grandchildren after them.
Those who stayed continued to fight, and some of them finally won. They claimed again their land, lost to them for centuries. They brought out the dances they had not forgotten, and their music, and the secret joy they had nursed.
And though some of their brothers yet warred, the people triumphed when that music, carried to the farthest corners of the globe, rang in the hearts of those who remembered, deep in their souls, the sound of it. It rang, too, in the hearts of those who had not known it, but recognized the magic. And they clasped it to them. The dance, the old, old dance, captured that world.
And it was good. The people remembered the magic. They revered their poets. They sang through their sorrow and celebrated their lives, no matter how dark the day, how deep the sorrow. They told tales of their great heroes, and those names followed the emigrants far over the sea–Connor and Loaghaire and Neill and Finn.
They lived. They survived to tell their tales, to sing their songs, to spread their magic over the world. In spite of famine and war for centuries unending, they sang and told stories – and survived.
We call them Irish.
And there, in that odd combination of optimism and despair, in the brooding sorrows of hundreds of years of suffering braided with the indomitable hope of the people, is where we’ll find the appeal of Ireland. In strong men with silver tongues and poetry in their souls. In men of such dashing, powerful beauty that no woman breathing could help but stop and stare at those blue, blue eyes.
We’ll find the appeal in women who should have given up ages ago, and somehow did not. Who had just enough faith and music in her soul to keep her going one more day, one more hour. Women of honor, women of substance. Women with a song–even if it’s a sad one–in her heart. If ever the character of a people could be said to embody the traits of a particular sign of the zodiac, the Irish would be Geminis. Sunny in spite of the darkest days, and yet brooding on the sunniest; youthful and full of music and a great zest for stories.
It amuses me that there’s even such a phrase as “the luck of the Irish.” What luck, exactly? As an Irish-American myself, that particular “luck” angle never worked for me. I know the stories of my grandparents, and those before them, and can pick up in history where family legends leave off.
No, it’s not the luck of the Irish that intrigues me. It’s the power of their spirit. That’s where the magic of Irish characters is, in that unconquerable spirit, in that stubborn survival that outlasted century upon century of mainly bad luck.
When I turn to Irish characters, and I’ve done so often, it’s that combination of joy and stubbornness and deep passion that attracts me. Tess, in Dancing Moon, kept fighting in the face of one disaster after another because that tiny little flame of hope, of music and joy, that lived in her heart would not allow her to give up. She survived.
When I write of Irish men, I’m thinking of a dancing light in a very blue eye, and a rakish grin, and a laugh that sends shivers through my soul. I’m imagining a man who knows a kiss can change the world, and kisses like he means it. In romance novels, we revere the best of the Irish. Charm in spades. Devilish tongues hiding sorrowful hearts. Startling beauty, with those clear eyes and good cheekbones and that nimble way of moving.
But mostly, we’re celebrating a purely unconquerable spirit – the spiritual magic of love and hope in spite of everything. And isn’t that what romance novels are all about?