Joe Biden quotes ‘favourite poem’ from St. Columb’s old boy Seamus Heaney on Derry poet's 84th birthday
The late Bellaghy poet’s wife Marie was among the invited guests in the Dáil chamber as President Biden addressed members of the Oireachtas.
"As was mentioned, today is Seamus Heaney's birthday,” he stated. “Over my long career of 36 years in the United States Senate, I was always quoting Irish poetry.
"My colleagues thought I did it because I was Irish but that is not the reason. It was because they were the best poets in the world. One of the best among them was Marie's husband and I thank you for sending me that autographed copy.”
The US President quoted from Mr. Heaney’s adaptation of the Sophocles’ play ‘Philoctetes’.
He told TDs and Senators: "My favourite poems is ‘The Cure at Troy’. Everyone knows the words, as they have heard them so many times. He wrote:
‘History says, Don’t hope On this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.’
"That is everything I have been taught. Rise up. We, in the past, have made hope and history rhyme.”
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
Newly published novel ‘Faithful Steward’ an account of tragic wreck of ship that left Derry quay in 1785
The verse has been often quoted by the US President. It was famously used by Bill Clinton when he addressed the people of Derry outside the Guildhall in 1995, and by Nancy Pelosi when the then speaker of the United States House of Representative addressed the Oireachtas on the 100th anniversary of the First Dáil in 2019.
During the course of his address President Biden spoke of the long-standing connection between Ireland and the United States, dating back to before the American revolutionary war against Britain and the official establishment of the union.
“Just four years before we issued our Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin came to the Irish Parliament, which he described as being ‘disposed to be friends of America’.
"In turn, the text of Ireland’s 1916 Proclamation, displayed in the main foyer of this building, draws on the support of Ireland’s ‘exiled children in America’.
"We are nations that know what it means to persevere for freedom, to brave civil war and toil in the vineyard of democracy - again that is not hyperbole; it is a fact. It is not just the hope, but the conviction that better days lie ahead that brought us along. We have the power to build a better future,” he stated.
Two brothers have dedicated the last 16 years of their lives to exploring the true story of what happened to 57 Irish emigrants
In his opening remarks the Dáil Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, observed: “From the Famine times through to today, so many people left these shores in search of a better life in the United States and a remarkable 33 million - maybe 34 million - Americans now claim Irish ancestry.
"The signatories of the 1916 Proclamation said that this very Republic came into being with the support of its ‘exiled children in America’. And how true that was.”