High-Falutin', or "The English Patient" level:
As the austere and pluvious mountain ranges of the
western and southern shores drop precipitously into
the peat bogs, the crannogs, the limestone lowlands
and verdant pastures irrigated by the skimble-skamble
meanderings of the River Shannon, the wanderer in this
land must needs be struck by the overriding zeitgeist,
if you will, of Ireland: dichotomy. Nigh-paradoxical
in every facet - from the countryside, both
inhospitable and fertile; to the politics of north and
south, colony and nation; to the religions of St.
Patrick and the Orangemen - Ireland is a study in
contrasts. The literary history of this most
north-westerly of European nations is rich, indeed,
boasting the Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw, his
successor William Butler Yeats, and the
self-contradictory Oscar Wilde, the comedic playwright
with a tragic life; yet Ireland was also the
wellspring of that seminal fountainhead of pulp
fiction, Bram Stoker. As narrated in Thomas Cahill's
historical study, "How the Irish Saved Civilization,"
the Irish monks spiritually descended from St. Patrick
became the storehouse of the knowledge and the poetry
of Greco-Roman civilization before the dawn of the
Middle Ages, thus preserving the roots of all Western
culture; and yet the Celtic spirit of druidism and
pagan worship is nowhere stronger than in Eirinn.
>From the capital city of Dublin, whose Taoiseach, or
Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, served as president of
the European Union, to Belfast in the north, land of
the Irish Republican Army and the last bastion
(welcome or no) of the British Empire, Ireland's two
sides, the smoke and the mirrors of this enchanted
isle, show the shining divinity of progress and hope,
as well as the underlying profanity of melancholy, of
endless strife. Perhaps the best - nay, the only -
way to summarize Ireland is in the eternal words of
Mr. Shaw: "Some see things as they are, and ask why.
Others dream things that never were and ask why not."
Ireland is home to both.
Mid-Falutin', or "Gladiator" level:
Top o' the mornin' to ye, and welcome to the Emerald
Isle! This wonderful country, home to nearly
4,000,000 people, combines the charm of Pierce Brosnan
with the stoic strength of Liam Neeson, and the rugged
good looks of both. Rolling green hills along the
coastlines give way to lowlands that boast some of the
most fertile agricultural land in Europe, though the
importance of farming and animal husbandry in the
Irish economy has been declining. Ireland is becoming
a nation of city-dwellers, with more than one-quarter
of the nation's population residing in the greater
Dublin area; along with this modernization and
centralization has come progress, as Ireland's economy
has become one of the fastest growing in the world.
The country, a leading member of the European Union,
has become a technological wonderland, home to the
European headquarters of such modern-day computer
giants as Microsoft and Dell. Ireland is now the
second-leading exporter of computer software, behind
only the U.S. The true beauty of Ireland, however,
lies in its land and its culture. Pieces of that
culture, and the influence it has had on the world,
can be seen in Guinness beer, one of the world's most
popular potables, and in the stunning success of
Riverdance, the Broadway sensation based on
traditional Irish dancing. Ireland's rich musical
culture has led to the success of such notable bands
as U2 and the Cranberries, as well as the more
traditional sounds of such artists as Sinead O'Connor
and the Pogues. Sadly, the history of Ireland has
also made the IRA a household name, owing to 800 years
of struggle against English rule and civil and
religious strife; but one can only hope that, as St.
Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland's shores, the
progress that Ireland continues to make will drive out
the cruelty and bloodshed, and leave this jewel of
Europe as a shining glory for us all to admire. Erin
Low-Falutin', or "Dude, Where's My Car?" level:
Ireland ROCKS! Any place that has a whole holiday
dedicated to gettin' wasted and pinching people that
don't remember to wear green has got to be a kick-butt
country. And leprechauns are cool, though I like the
Lucky Charms kind better than that psycho midget from
the movie. I've never been to Ireland myself, but I
have been to Boston, and that town is, what, like half
Irish at least, you know what I'm sayin'? Without
Ireland, there'd be no Boston Celtics, no Fighting
Irish of Notre Dame, and no House of Pain - Everlast
is alright, but you can't beat "Jump Around." Ireland
is also where potatoes come from, I think, and
probably McDonald's - that's an Irish name, right?
With the "Mc" thing? Anyways, Ireland's just cool,
though you probably wouldn't want to go to Belfast,
and does anybody get that whole kissing the Blarney
Stone thing? Oh, and if you're looking to get drunk
on St. Patty's day, go to one of those Irish pubs they
have everywhere, but don't get O'Doul's. You can
drink that all day and still be sober, which is weird
since most Irish beer will totally knock you on your
shillelagh. Ireland! WOO!
Finally, an Irish blessing, and a curse.
The blessing: "May you live as long as you want, and
never want as long as you live."
The curse: "May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine
blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the
hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can't find
you with a telescope."