#OTD in 1914 – Pádraig Pearse gave a Commemoration address for Robert Emmet in Brooklyn, New York.

Emmet was executed by the British in 1803 for this part of a rebellion against British rule in 1803. Pearse was executed by the British in 1916 for his part in the Easter Rising.

On his tour of America in 1914 Pádraig Pearse used Robert Emmet’s commemoration to deliver two high-voltage speeches linking ideas of patriotic sacrifice to matters of faith, as the revolutionary rhetoric shifted from words to action. ‘Heroes stand midway between God and men’, he prosaically proclaimed in an address delivered in the Academy of Music in Brooklyn on 2 March.

Emmet was one such hero, who had left a ‘memory of sacrifice Christ-like in its perfection’. Pearse’s most powerful passage, linking landscape and memory, reconfigured the geography of Dublin around Emmet and the 1803 rebellion in a further bid to retrieve a sense of revolutionary purpose. After describing apocalyptic images of ‘cities levelled’ as the consequence of continued occupation of Ireland, he mapped a utopian past, present and future extending from his headmaster’s study in St Enda’s into an imagined day when the restless spirits were finally at peace.

I live in a place that is very full of heroic memories. In the room in which I work at St Enda’s College, Robert Emmet is said often to have sat; in our garden is a vine which they call the Emmet Vine and from which he is said to have plucked grapes; through our wood runs a path which is called Emmet’s walk—they say he and Sarah Curran walked there.

Robert Emmet Statue, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

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