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This article is taken from PN Review 75, Volume 17 Number 1, September - October 1990.

Outside History Eavan Boland


YEARS AGO, I went to Achill for Easter. I was a student at Trinity then and I had the loan of a friend's cottage. It was a one-story, stone building with two rooms and a view of sloping fields.

April was cold that year. The cottage was in sight of the Atlantic and at night a bitter, humid wind blew across the shore. By day there was heckling sunshine but after dark a fire was necessary. The loneliness of the place suited me. My purposes in being there were purgatorial and I had no intention of going out and about. I had done erratically, to say the least, in my first year exams. In token of the need to do better, I had brought with me a small accusing volume of the Court poets of the Silver Age. In other words, those sixteenth-century English song writers like Wyatt and Raleigh, whose lines appear so elegant, so off-hand yet whose poems smell of the gallows.

I was there less than a week. The cottage had no water and every evening the caretaker, an old woman who shared a cottage with her brother at the bottom of the field, would carry water up to me. I can see her still. She has a tea-towel round her waist - perhaps this is one image that has become all the images I have of her - she wears an old cardigan and her hands are blushing ...

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