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Obama to Biden: 'I had to quote an Irish poet and Seamus Heaney was taken'

Seamus Heaney and WB Yeats featured in the speeches given by the men yesterday.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THE GHOSTS OF Irish poets were invoked yesterday as outgoing US president Barack Obama presented his vice-president Joe Biden with his nation’s highest honour.

Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bestowing the honour on his loyal lieutenant with a distinction.

In the emotionally charged ceremony yesterday, both men thanked and complimented each other over the time they spent in office together.

And what better way to give an occasion a sense of majesty and importance than by quoting Irish poets?

Biden has been known to drop a line or two from Irish poet Seamus Heaney from time to time, so Obama decided to pay respect to his vice-president by co-opting the words of his own Irish poet.

“As Yeats put it – because I had to quote an Irish poet, and Seamus Heaney was taken:

‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends’.

The line was taken from Yeats’ The Municipal Gallery Revisited – which details the poet’s visit to what is now named the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

There Yeats sees pictures and paintings of notable people and friends he has had throughout the years and reflects on times gone by.

Not to be outdone, Biden – on accepting the honour – quoted his old favourite, Heaney.

“And Seamus Heaney in one of his poems said – when you can find someone who says it better, use it – he said:

‘You carried your own burdens, and very soon, the creeping symptoms of privilege disappeared’.

That line is taken from Heaney’s poem From the Republic of Conscience, which was published in 1987.

The poem was written at the request of the then-head of Amnesty International Ireland Mary Lawlor, in order to mark International Human Rights Day in 1985.

The bestowing of America’s highest honour caps what has been an amicable relationship based on mutual respect while the two served in office.

But the honour and their lasting relationship may be just cold comforts set between the two men as things are due to change, change utterly when incoming president Donald Trump takes the reins of the US next week.

Read: A British lawyer wants the Irish courts to ask if there’s a way back from Brexit

Read: Obama and Biden took their bromance to new levels and there wasn’t a dry eye in the White House

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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