Monday, 30 July 2007

Little Lad of the Tricks

Is there anyone out there who can give an innocent interpretation of this poem by 1916 hero, Padraig Pearse? This was written by him in 1909, one year after he set up the St Endas School for Boys, in south Dublin.

Was this the template for the Christian Brothers, and all that followed?


by Padraig Pearse.

Little lad of the tricks,
Full well I know
That you have been in mischief:
Confess your fault truly.

I forgive you, child
Of the soft red mouth:
I will not condemn anyone
For a sin not understood.

Raise your comely head
Till I kiss your mouth:
If either of us is the better of that
I am the better of it.

There is a fragrance in your kiss
That I have not found yet
In the kisses of women
Or in the honey of their bodies.

Lad of the grey eyes,
That flush in thy cheek
Would be white with dread of me
Could you read my secrets.

He who has my secrets
Is not fit to touch you:
Is not that a pitiful thing,
Little lad of the tricks ?

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Father Fayth said...

Erm... no. Kiddie fiddling is the only interpretation I can make.

Pegeen Mike said...

It's theorized that Pearse was an "unconscious homosexual," but yeah... I kind of agree with the above comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Pearse's blood Sacrifice British oppression was finally removed from our state giving us the right to practise our cultural heritage as Pearse expressed so well in poems like this.

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Anon - hooray for freedom. Freedom to abuse, that is. I think our priests and Christian Brothers took old Paddy P in earnest.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm 4 years behind here, but, wow. Between this shite, Casement's diaries,and the doings within the Adams family... we have a whole new meaning for 'Republican succession'.

mandazulu said...

damned paedophile

Anonymous said...

Not unconscious, I think, but horrified by his own desires and not intending to act on them.

Joanne O'Dwyer said...

I always thought the little lad of the tricks was himself, his own youth and innocence and his reluctance to say goodbye to it. Poems are rarely about what they appear to be, are rarely literal, especially Irish poetry. I view this poem like the song "The Four Green Fields" by Tommy Makem, which wasn't about 4 green fields either, obviously. Pearse's youth and innocence are something he wants to kiss - to hold onto - to embrace. He looks back at his childhood mischief and forgives himself of it because he knows now of its inherent harmlessness. Being young, pure and naive, without the responsibility of adulthood and the heaviness of adult choices appeals to him much more than chasing women. He feels his childhood self would be full of dread if he knew of his adult secrets, of his willingness to kill for freedom, of his hatred of the English occupiers, of his potentially murderous nature. He feels his duty to his country and the possible consequences of this are his adult choices, and however noble they may be, they have sullied his innocence and purity of heart. That's why he doesn't feel his adult self is entitled to touch his childhood self - he has become so far removed from what he once was. He acknowledges that it is a pitiful way to feel, though, because he knows there is necessity in his violent actions, "a terrible beauty" almost. Still he grieves for his lost innocence in spite of his love for his country and his burning desire for freedom - just my interpretation.

Anonymous said...

And Elvis is alive and well, at least 6 gunmen assassinated Kennedy and they never landed on the moon. But what does it matter - Ireland has collectively adopted the great myth of "The Rising" and its "Heroic Patriots" (sic) as historical fact. Why let a thing like paedophilia get in the way?

Oscar Duggan said...

I think Joanne has summarised it pretty well.

It is about a relationship between an older man (the narrator) and a younger boy and there is even something sordid about it but it's not sexual. The man and the boy are the same person: an older man looking back on his younger self, wondering about what he has become, about his future destiny, whether it could have been different, whether he would do anything differently even if he could change the past. It is tempting to think that paedophilia provides the clue but that would be a superficial interpretation in my view. It is possible though however, the author is being deliberately vague and risqué on this point. Pearse was obviously a very intelligent man who knew that, deep down, the power of poetry lies in its ability to mix metaphors.

As for his own sexuality, I think the poet sets that on the line in the stanza about "There is a fragrance in your kiss / That I have not found yet / In the kisses of women / Or in the honey of their bodies." This would imply that he has had sexual experiences (with adult women, not juvenile boys) but he is one of those people who holds strongly to a certain 'higher calling' and a sense of his own destiny, however cold and callous he may appear in the minds of those who more readily succumb to the pleasures of the flesh.

Rose Pearse said...

Nice try, but no.