We'll leave the debates over why the Irish are such champions of the written word — Is it the island's strong oral traditions surrounding the seanchai, or storyteller? The rich vein of Celtic folklore? The really awesome beer? — to folks who are much smarter and more sober. The Irish count four Nobel Prize winners in Literature: Seamus Haney, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats. Meanwhile, some of the less-lauded were also quite nifty with a pen: Joyce, Swift, Wilde, Synge.
Not surprisingly, this literary aptitude frequently surfaces in the words of Ireland's music artists. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here are 10 fantastic lines from Irish songwriters:
Van Morrison – “Ballerina”
“You know I saw the writing on the wall / When you came up to me / Child, you were heading for a fall”
“Ballerina” is a sweeping, moon-eyed ode to Van Morrison's first wife, Janet Rigsbee. Few ballads can match this one's rapturous intensity; the dude had clearly fallen arse over teacups for her. But what truly makes “Ballerina” so potent is how fragments of its lyrics could apply to Morrison's religiously divided Northern Ireland, which, upon Astral Weeks' release in November of 1968, was on the brink of its own tragic fall.