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Irish Literature in the Library

You can always find an interesting display of library material around College, and this week is no different.

From the display: “In the summer of 2016, Pembroke College received a large donation of Irish Literature titles from alumni Andrew Parkin, who studied the English Tripos here between 1958-1961.  Currently based in Vancouver, he is a published poet, fiction writers, critic, and author of over 20 books.

The collection includes around 400 works by authors, from Beckett to Yeats: plays, poetry, prose and critical editions by Parkin himself.  Parkin, who taught English Literature at the University of British Columbia, as well as writing and publishing his poetry, is the Founding Editor of the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, and was awarded the title of Most Distinguished Retiring Editor of a Learned Journal by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals in Washington D.C.”

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Parkin’s contribution means that Pembroke now has a rich library pertaining to Irish Literature.  As evidenced by the display, this literature is given further meaning through by allowing one to connect with the lives of writers, poets and artists. In one of the books, for example, are portraits of W.B Yeats and Georgie Hyde-Lees;  portraits by Yeats’ own brother, who won a silver medal in the ‘arts and culture’ segment of the 1924 Olympic Games.  The inclusion of details like this reflects the personal nature of Yeats’ poetry.  Also displayed is The Lake Isle of Innisfree, where Yeats spent several summers.  Like many of his poems, it is an ode to the mystery of the Irish countryside, and illustrates Yeats yearning for the country from his urban viewpoint.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

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It’s all too easy, in what is colloquially known as the ‘Cambridge Bubble’ to forget to connect with the world outside College.  Our interactions with our alumni community are one way to remedy this; collections like Parkin’s add a personal touch to an already valuable set of literature because of the donor’s connection to Pembroke.  And in our urban ‘bubble’, perhaps one way to escape, with the stresses and long library hours of exam term approaching, is to lose ourselves in the countryside of Yeats’ poetry.

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