A few days before Christmas 1900, Augusta Gregory was delighted to receive a copy of Yeats's dramatic poem The Shadowy Waters, from its author (Yeats, 1997, p. 610). The linguistic opulence and static quality of Gregory's 'best Xmas box' would soon come into conflict with Yeats's theatrical ambitions in the early years of the century, prompting him to revise it twice in an attempt to discard its 'needless symbols' (Yeats, 1954, p. 453). As a poetic text, the 1900 version reads as a lengthy postscript to the symbolist poems collected in Yeats's quintessentially fin-de-siècle volume of the preceding year, The Wind Among the Reeds. In his introduction to The Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936), Yeats famously declared that 'in 1900 everybody got down off his stilts' (Yeats, 1994, p. 185); but, on the evidence of The Shadowy Waters, he himself was still riding high at the turn of the century. Yeats's poetic trajectory up to the First World War, and the publication of Responsibilities, can be viewed as a prolonged effort to come down to earth, as it were. Turning away from the introspective, dreamy Celticism of his 1890s verse, he sought a more public and declamatory poetry, the rhythms of which, to his gender-fixated mind, would be more 'masculine' than those of his early work.
Yeats's characteristic refashioning of his poetic identity in this period is representative of the general trend in Irish poetry from the turn of the century to independence, as poets increasingly found the ethereal qualities of the poetry of the 1890s turning ersatz. Aestheticism did survive the nineteenth century in Irish poetry: it is discernible, in a self-consciously manipulated form, in Joyce's Chamber Music (1907), and traces linger as late as Oliver St John Gogarty's urbane An Offering of Swans (1923). Yet the poetry of Joyce and Gogarty equally signals an impatience with the dreamy mood of the symboliste twilight of the Literary Revival. Joyce and Gogarty's fraught relationship is, of course, famously recast by Joyce as that of Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan in Ulysses; and in the latter's 'Ballad of Joking Jesus' (in the 'Telemachus' section of Joyce's novel) Joyce rescued for posterity an example of the kind of scurrilous poetry for which Gogarty was famous among his peers, the mildly ribald quality of which informs the poems he subsequently gathered together as 'Satires and Facetiae' in his Collected Poems (1954). Joyce's mischief-making reveals his own taste for verse of this kind. In his satirical broadside of 1904, 'The Holy Office', Joyce lampoons the work of Yeats and the Revival in the name of a rude 'Katharsis-Purgative': 'That they may dream their dreamy dreams / I carry off their filthy streams' (Joyce, 1992, pp. 103, 104). One of Joyce's targets in this poem is George Russell (AE), whose Collected Poems of 1913 illustrates well the persistent afterglow of the Celtic Twilight in the first decade or so of the new century. Nevertheless, George Russell was instrumental in the shift in Irish poetry towards a sharper focus and rhythmic firmness through his role in the publication, in 1904, of New Songs, a volume of poetry by a younger generation than his and Yeats's (though he chose to exclude Joyce, a possible slight remembered by the author of Ulysses). Although Richard Fallis makes New Songs sound more programmatic than it actually was, he is right to note the manner in which many of its contributors 'replace the mazy rhythms of the poetry of the nineties with an energy which came from folk song' (Fallis, 1977, p. 119), and their concomitant rejection of mythical material largely in favour of ruralist preoccupations.
New Songs' shift away from Celticism is imbricated in the literary phenomenon of these years which Seamus Deane adroitly dubs 'Irish Elizabethanism' (Deane, 1991, p. 721). The importance of Elizabethan lyricism to the poets of the 1890s is, in an Irish context, most palpable in the work of the English-born Celtophile, and self-styled Irish patriot, Lionel Johnson, whose dissipation and premature death in 1902 would guarantee him a prominent place in Yeats's account of his 'tragic generation'. Johnson's poetry, however, is far from dissolute; its astringency was admired by Ezra Pound, who saw in his 'small slabs of ivory, firmly combined and contrived' (Johnson, 1915, p. ix) something lost to English-language poetry since the Elizabethans. Irish Eliza-bethanism in the early years of the twentieth century attempts to reinflect Johnson's 'hard energy', as Yeats described it (Yeats, 1999, p. 241), into 'the vigour, fullness of speech, energy' which Deane believes Synge for one found in Elizabethan poetry (Deane, 1991, p. 721); and which Synge and other poets descried in the culture of rural Ireland, specifically its traditional folksongs. In another revision of 1890s Celticism, urban experience finds a place in a small body of Irish poetry at this date: in James Stephens's irate and disturbingly vivid depictions of Dublin's poor in Insurrections (1909), and in a number of wistful, impressionistic poems about city life by a contributor to New Songs, Seamus O'Sullivan. (O'Sullivan would latterly become an important figure in the dissemination of Irish poetry through his editorship, from 1923 to 1958, of the highly eclectic literary periodical, The Dublin Magazine.) In Synge's poems and those of two slightly younger writers encouraged by Russell, Joseph Campbell and Padraic Colum, Celticism gives way to an earthier representation of rural Ireland and the lives of its inhabitants. As Austin Clarke later observed, 'our poetry had passed into what we might call the folk phase' (Clarke, 1967, p. 30), a transformation he traced to the importance for younger poets of Douglas Hyde's bilingual anthologies, The Love Songs of Connacht (1893) and Religious Songs of Connacht (1906).
Colum's strength, in his poems included in New Songs and in his first and finest collection, Wild Earth (1907), resides in his pastiche-folksongs: his well-known 'She Moved Through the Fair', for instance, pours new lyrics into the bottle of an old air. Similarly, the Ulsterman Campbell published, in the same year as New Songs appeared, a collaborative venture with Herbert Hughes, Songs of Uladh, in which Campbell provided the words to traditional Donegal tunes collected by Hughes, their most successful result the popular 'My Lagan Love'. Colum's ruralist subject matter, wedded to his verbal and rhythmic simplicity, can border on sentimentality. Campbell's intense preoccupation with the Irish landscape, conveyed through an increasingly evocative and, in Earth of Cualann (1917), allusive language, is richer fare; and shows the influence of literary modernism, principally Imagism, with which he came into contact in London early in the century. The cultural nationalism of the two poets was at one with their militant politics: both were involved with the Irish Volunteers, and Campbell's anti-Treaty position would find him interned during the Irish Civil War. Indeed, Campbell played a part in the Easter Rising, the repercussions of which included the execution of three of his poetic contemporaries, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse and Joseph Mary Plunkett. Of these, MacDonagh most thoughtfully addressed, from a nationalist standpoint, the vexed issue of an Irish poetry in English. His Literature in Ireland (1916) seeks to discredit the notion of a 'Celtic Note' in Irish literature, arguing instead that there is an essentially 'Irish Mode' of writing in English, which shows 'the influence of Gaelic versification, of Irish music or the Irish way of speech' (MacDonagh, 1996, p. xiv). Provocatively, MacDonagh links 'the element of disturbance, of revolution' he identifies in this Anglo-Irish hybrid to Futurism and experiments in vers libre (ibid., p. 5). While his own poems are anything but disturbing, some of his versions of Irish poems, such as 'The Yellow Bittern', impressively deploy assonantal patterns derived from their Irish originals. Such a device, in Russian Formalist parlance, defamiliarizes the English-language lyric, generating mildly disjunctive sound-patterns in its new linguistic context. In this respect, MacDonagh's translations can be profitably considered alongside those of Pound — an admirer of MacDonagh's thesis in Literature in Ireland — whose revolutionary 'translations' from Chinese poetry, Cathay, had appeared in 1915.
MacDonagh's exercises in this manner were important for Francis Ledwidge, whose elegy for the insurrectionist, 'Lament for Thomas MacDonagh', begins by echoing 'The Yellow Bittern'. Ledwidge died a year after MacDonagh was shot — blown to pieces at Ypres in 1917 while serving for the imperial power the Easter Rising had contested. Seamus Heaney has memorably described Ledwidge as 'our dead enigma', a figure in whom 'all the strains / Criss-cross in useless equilibrium' (Heaney, 1998, p. 186). Criss-crossing Ledwidge's later poetry are a number of 'strains': the atrophied lyricism familiar to readers of Edward Marsh's anthologies of contemporary British poetry, a mythological allusiveness after the example of the Revival, and a number of essays in the kind of 'Irish Mode' argued for by MacDonagh (of which this 'Lament' is one instance). Haunted by the violence of 1916, Ledwidge's poignant pastoralism contains no overt attempt to accommodate his own traumatic experiences at Gallipoli and in the Western trenches. Unlike Wilfred Owen's, his Georgianism is not forced to implode under the pressure of modern warfare. By way of contrast, the poetry of another combatant, Thomas MacGreevy, does address the representation of warfare, both that of the Great War and the struggles in Ireland prior to and attendant upon the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. Yet MacGreevy chooses to approach his subject matter by means of techniques derived from high modernism rather than John Masefield, producing a fragmentary textual patina most fully developed in his middle-length poem, Cron Trath na nDeithe, a work which owes as much to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land as to its acknowledged model, Ulysses.
MacGreevy, along with his younger friend Samuel Beckett, and Beckett's contemporaries Brian Coffey and Denis Devlin, rejected not only Celticism, but also much of the poetry which in various ways had sought to create an 'Irish Mode' distinct from that of Revival. Beckett's Echo's Bones and Other Precipitates (1936) is aggressively modernist in its disorientating dislocations. Well-apprised of Joyce's linguistic bravado in Work in Progress, and temperamentally inclined towards the sense of cultural malaise permeating The Waste Land, Beckett's early poems edgily atomize concerns developed at greater length in his prose and drama. With his turn to French, the overdetermined nature of the early verse modulates into an evocation of 'strangely gentle apocalypse', as Hugh Kenner felicitously describes the quality of a poem such as 'je suis ce cours de sable qui glisse/my way is in the sand flowing' (Kenner, 1996, p. 45). Beckett's increasingly minimalist poetic contrasts with Devlin's linguistic jouissance, in Barthes's sense of the word. Devlin's Intercessions (1937) is unique in Irish poetry, being saturated with the example of French surrealism, specifically the love poetry of Paul Eluard. Devlin's career as a diplomat in the civil service would take him to the United States during the Second World War, and into a creative relationship with the New Critical poetics of Allan Tate and Robert Penn Warren, the results of which are evident in a number of poems included in Lough Derg and Other Poems (1946). But surrealist images continue to spot the densely symbolic patterning of these works, just as the libido's urges inform and direct the Mariology of Devlin's religious outlook in his late masterpiece, The Heavenly Foreigner (1950).
An indigenous modernist aesthetics is, if not absent, then a fitful presence in the literary landscape of Ireland in the interwar years, though, with the notable exception of the novelist Flann O'Brien, Irish writers drawn to experimental modes of writing gravitated in the early 1930s to London and continental Europe, specifically Paris. In Terence Brown's view, 'An almost Stalinist antagonism to modernism' is evident in much of the media during the years leading up to the Emergency; antipathy towards 'surrealism, free verse, symbolism and the modern cinema . . . combined with prudery (the 1930s saw opposition to paintings of nudes being exhibited in the National Gallery in Dublin) and a deep reverence for the Irish past' (Brown, 1985, p. 147). What can be overlooked in such a dispirited portrayal of the period is the liberating influence of modernist poetics on certain women poets, specifically, Mary Devenport O'Neill and Sheila Wingfield, and to a lesser extent Rhoda Coghill (just as a number of Irish women painters were inspired by abstraction in the visual arts). O'Neill's and Wingfield's adoption of what are basically Imagistic procedures in some of their poems comes long after Imagism, as a coherent movement, had expired. Such belatedness is indicative of the extent to which O'Neill and, to a greater extent, Wingfield, wrote in relative isolation, though O'Neill's Thursday salon was frequented by such literary luminaries as Yeats and Russell. Despite this connection, O'Neill's poetry is anti-revivalist in its refusal to idealize rural Ireland; its Imagistic clarity, as Anne Fogarty suggests, is governed by an attentiveness to the world that bears some comparison with Laura (Riding) Jackson's emphasis on poetic purity. Wingfield's poetry also possesses a quality of objectivism, though her most achieved work is the discursive long poem Beat Drum, Beat Heart (1946), a sustained meditation in four parts on the effects of war on men and women. It is one of the major Irish long poems of the century, and, in its complex and scrupulous attention to the activities and behaviour of men and women during military conflict, is comparable with the blitz novels of fellow Ascendancy writer Elizabeth Bowen.
Writers who stood opposed to the cultural insularity of the 1930s and 1940s made various attempts to demystify the ideology originally developed by the Irish Ireland movement in the early decades of the century, particularly in the work of D. P. Moran and Daniel Corkery, which achieved its most notorious formulation in Éamon de Valera's St Patrick's Day speech of 1943, with its vision of an Ireland of 'frugal comfort', 'joyous with the sounds of industry, the romping of sturdy children, the contests of athletic youths, the laughter of comely maidens' (quoted in Brown, 1985, p. 146). Patrick Kavanagh's unflinching exposé of the hardships underpinning the 'frugal comfort' of de Valera's Ireland in The Great Hunger (1942) is the poetic counterpart to the critique of mid-century Ireland mounted in the pages of Sean O Faolâin's robustly uncompromising journal, The Bell. Like The Bell, Kavanagh's long poem engages with some of the grimmer realities of Ireland after independence and during the Second World War. Targeting the country's conservative and patriarchal social order, it provides an alternatively fierce and poignant analysis of the hardships suffered by those who lived in a relatively unmechanized, underdeveloped rural economy. Centring on the life of a subsistence farmer, Kavanagh deals a realist rebuke to de Valeran notions of rural Ireland as well as denouncing the Revivalists' treatment of the Irish 'peasantry', giving the lie to their idealized representations of a mode of life which few of the Revivalists knew at first hand.
Louis MacNeice served briefly as poetry editor for The Bell during the late 1940s; his earlier long poem Autumn Journal (1938) had in part dealt with the insularity of Ireland, north and south of the border, as MacNeice perceived it. The documentary style of the poem makes good the thesis adumbrated in MacNeice's Modern Poetry (1938) of the current need for 'impure' poetry (a demand which The Great Hunger and Beat Drum, Beat Heart equally fulfil): a verse form that registers the vagaries of experience, shaping its recalcitrant material into patterns without transmuting existential lead into spurious poetic gold. The intensity of MacNeice's response to the dross, as he sees it, of post-partition Ireland prefigures his sensitivity, a decade later, to the experience of the Indian subcontinent on the cusp of independence and partition. But his unflinching poetic does contain an idealistic dimension, an innocence to weigh against the bifurcated sense of being felt by the Anglo-Irish MacNeice, and which finds its imaginative locus in the west of Ireland. This aspect of MacNeice, coupled to his preoccupation with divisiveness, both of the self and recent European and Irish history, suggests an affinity with Yeats, on whom MacNeice wrote one of the first and best full-length studies. Autumn Journal's splenetic reaction to Ireland also recalls another hyphenated Anglo-Irishman's polemics of this period - Beckett's swingeing 1934 essay, 'Recent Irish Poetry'. Whereas MacNeice's socio-political critique targets, in the south, the 'round tower' of de Valera's Ireland, Beckett's essay lambastes the poetry of 'our leading twilighters' (Beckett, 1983, p. 71) - that of Austin Clarke, Colum, Monk Gibbon, F. R. Higgins and James Stephens - and the deleterious effects, to Beckett's eye, of Yeats's The Tower and The Winding Stair and Other Poems on contemporary Irish poetry.
It needs to be said that Beckett's 'younger antiquarians' are largely straw men, his depiction of Yeats a burlesque. As John P. Harrington has observed, Beckett's 'critique of cut-and-dried Ossianic goods [is] virtually as old as those goods themselves' (Harrington, 1991, p. 33); and Yeats's later poetry constitutes its own 'critique' of various currents within Irish political and cultural nationalism, including it needs to be said, the political and social efficacy of his own work. His misgivings, in this regard, are apparent in the recognition of the gulf that separates his literary activity from the lives of the combatants in 'The Road at my Door', one of the 'Meditations in Time of Civil War': trying to 'silence the envy in [his] thought', the poet 'turns towards [his] chamber, caught / in the cold snows of a dream' (Yeats, 1957, p. 424). This is a worry that gnaws at the vitals of Yeats's work, and informs the self-interrogative mood of his late poem 'Man and the Echo'. In the course of that poem, Yeats famously asks, 'Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot' (Yeats, 1957, p. 632); and it is hard to determine whether an answer in the negative would not disturb the speaker more than a positive reply. The play in question, the nationalist allegory Cathleen ni Houlihan (as much Augusta Gregory's play as Yeats's, it should be said), exemplifies an important element of the Revival's modernism, that which Terry Eagleton terms its 'non-realist representation, art faithful to an action which is itself realistically improbable, or one which represents it in a non-realist way' (Eagleton, 1995, p. 305). Cathleen ni Houlihan undermines realist theatrical conventions, not, as in Yeats's later Noh-inspired drama, by rejecting them, but by means of the introduction of the symbolic figure of Cathleen into a representational drama set in Mayo, 1798, on the eve of rebellion. 'Man and the Echo' questions the political import of the play's modernist form and, by extension, the entire Literary Revival's contribution to the nationalist cause in the run-up to 1916 and the War of Independence.
This is not to downplay the importance of the Revivalists' nationalist intentions and respective political agendas: pace the revisionist historian R. F. Foster, Cathleen ni Houlihan and the cultural nationalism of the Revival as a whole may well have been formative in the politicizing of some of its audience. After all, one of the casualties of the Easter Rising was Sean Connolly, an actor at the Abbey Theatre from 1913, whom Yeats memorializes in another late poem, 'Three Songs to the One Burden': 'Who was the first man shot that day? / The player Connolly' (Yeats, 1957, p. 608). Perhaps the player's actions owed something to the Abbey's plays. My point is rather that the Revival's modernism is apparent in Yeats's later anxiety with regard to the relationship between his literary output and the social and political conjuncture in which it is produced. While the cultural nationalism of the Revival is informed by a desire to re-present Ireland to itself in literary form, the 'Ireland' constructed to this end took on its own autonomous existence. Hence the antipathy it generated in later writers, several of whom, including Beckett and Kavanagh, tended to conflate the Revival's representation of Ireland with the more obviously ideological national self-images promoted by Irish Ireland and de Valera. The older Yeats admits to the freefloating nature of the Revival's Ireland in several contexts: in 'The Municipal Gallery Re-visited' the portraits among which the speaker stands, 'the images of thirty years', have precisely that property of 'non-realist representation' Eagleton identifies in the Revival. 'This is not', the persona declares, 'The dead Ireland of my youth, but an Ireland / The poets have imagined, terrible and gay' (Yeats, 1957, pp. 601—2). Likewise, in 'The Circus Animals' Desertion' Yeats confesses that 'Players and painted stage took all my love / And not those things that they were emblems of' (Yeats, 1957, p. 630). Partially unhinged from its referent, Yeats's Ireland, 'terrible and gay', is an emblematic Ireland; that is, it relates to its horizon of production in the manner of an 'emblem' or moral fable. The autonomy of these images is that of the high modernist artwork, which can never attain the closeness to lived experience enjoyed by the folk artefact.
Yeats flirted with the apparent immediacy of the ballad in several late poems, and issued a number of these from the Cuala Press in a collaborative venture with F. R. Higgins. Higgins's preoccupation with the folksong predated his acquaintance with Yeats, and has its origins in his reading in Hyde's Love Songs, as is apparent from the poetry collected in Island Blood (1925) and The Dark Breed (1927). As the titles of these two collections suggest, Higgins's early poetry is concerned with racial identity, an issue over which he came into conflict with MacNeice in a radio broadcast of 1939, an exchange which has since achieved minor notoriety due to its strategic deployment by Paul Muldoon as the 'Prologue' to his Faber Book of Contemporary Poetry. Higgins's poetry delimits a notion of Irishness which it locates in the western seaboard, in 'the dark men from the glenside / And bare-limbed girls with creels', who populate the title poem of his first collection (Higgins, 1925, p. 65). Such a portrayal of the 'dark breed' of Connacht is, of course, the kind of poetic representation ridiculed by Beckett in 'Recent Irish Poetry' and lampooned by Devlin as the 'Eternally emerald pastures of Ireland . . . and brown men of Connaught' (Devlin, 1989, p. 13). But the darkness explored in Higgins's poetry is as much that of his melancholic lyric subject as it is a racial property. His speaker's valedictions to the rapidly eroding customs of rural Ireland are reinforced by evocative exercises in the kind of 'Irish Mode' argued for by MacDonagh. As his friend Austin Clarke noted, the sound-patterns of Higgins's poetry possess remarkable 'subtlety in tune rhythm', his 'use of end-assonance has the same effect as diminished intervals in music' (Clarke, 1967, p. 46). In Higgins's final volume, The Gap of Brightness (1940), the insistent rhythms of the ballad dominate, their urgency helping to convey his anxiety over the changing face of the rural landscape. As a number of critics have remarked, some of these poems bear more than a trace of Yeats's late hauteur; but, as is also the case with the poetry of Padraic Fallon, rather than merely imitating Yeats's preoccupations and mannerisms, Higgins, at his best, maintains a dialogue with the older poet. In 'Auction!' for instance, Higgins turns a rueful eye on his own Protestant background, as he places that heritage, and its glamorization in Yeats's hands, under the hammer of the auctioneer: 'Now, I'll knock down to this fine throng / The spacious park — once great and grand — / That Higgins mortgaged for a song' (Higgins, 1940, p. 83).
Fallon has often been read as though he mortgaged his poetry to Yeats; and a poem such as 'Yeats's Tower at Ballylee' does indeed, as Robert F. Garratt observes, succumb to the very Yeatsian rhetoric it seeks to circumnavigate. Yet elsewhere Fallon shows how the incorporation of Irish-language poetic devices and elements drawn from folksong can be fruitfully combined with a more disjunctive modernist mode of writing, thus destabilizing the conventional lyric form from within. In a related fashion, John Goodby has cogently argued that Fallon's deployment of archetypal female figures, in a problematic attempt to critique Yeats's phallocentrism, resembles the interspersion of mythic female presences in Pound's Cantos. The sensuality of much of Fallon's writing resembles that of W. R. Rodgers's, though the latter's linguistic brio owes more to Dylan Thomas and the Neo-Romantics of the 1940s than the preceding generation of high modernists. The conjoining of sexuality and spirituality in the title poem of Rodgers's Europa and the Bull (1942) is reinforced by a rhetorical excess that Gregory A. Schirmer sees as functioning in a compensatory fashion, as a reaction to his Northern Presbyterianism culture. If that is the case, Rodgers's style stands in marked contrast to that of his fellow Ulsterman, John Hewitt, whose monologic, pentameter-based voice can be heard to attempt a more rational and comprehensive interrogation of the realities of the Northern Irish Protestant. The great strength of Hewitt's meditations on the place and roots of his poetic persona lies in their ability to deconstruct the very regionalist ideology on which they are based. His forays into the nature of Irishness, underpinned by the desire for liberal tolerance, are forced into quiet self-rebuke, as his aspirations for Ulster are made to confront the dispossessions of the past.
Hewitt's emphasis on the particularities of place finds an echo in Austin Clarke's localism. Clarke's attentiveness to the events and personages of Ireland after independence developed out of his growing antipathy to the haziness of what he called 'the Twilight mood': 'all that is vague, wistful and dreamful was assumed to be characteristic of the Celtic race here and elsewhere' (Clarke, 1995, p. 153). From the 1920s on his work can be read, at least in part, as a series of strategic moves to free himself of the influence of Revival, in particular Yeats, though the movement's cultural nationalism and idealism remained with Clarke throughout his life, leading to his intense dissatisfaction with the often far from ideal realities of the Free State and, later, the Republic. Indeed, Robert F. Garratt has argued that Clarke saw himself as inheriting the tradition of the Literary Revival, which he was compelled to 'extend and develop' (Garratt, 1986, p. 107). His first work, a long narrative poem, The Vengeance of Fionn (1917), is heavily indebted to the Revival's interest in Irish mythology, retelling the story of the relationship between Diarmuid and Grainne in vivid English. Well-received by reviewers, Clarke was unable to repeat either the critical success or artistic achievement of this work in his following long poems. Concurrent with Clarke's poetic tribulations were the Anglo-Irish war and the Irish Civil War. Clarke, a republican sympathizer, was deeply troubled by the fierce reprisals exacted by the Free State government on republicans. In self-imposed exile in London, Clarke responded to this betrayal, as he saw it, of the ideals of 1916 in Pilgrimage and Other Poems (1929), which, aside from its striking experiments in the 'Irish Mode', drew for its subject matter upon the Celto-Romanesque period in Irish history, an era which it implicitly deploys as a yardstick against which to measure the shortcomings of the present.
Throughout the early stages of his life, Clarke was troubled by mental illness, a topic which was finally explored in his long poem of 1966, Mnemosyne Lay in Dust. But emotional and intellectual crisis is to be found in Clarke's poetry as early as the thirties, in Night and Morning (1938), a collection in which Clarke began to examine an issue to which he would return obsessively for the next thirty or so years: the relationship between the oppressive and arrogant Church and the subjected, suffering individual. With his resumption of poetic writing in the 1950s, after a period devoted principally to verse drama, a new satirical voice emerges in Clarke's work, one which is unflinching in its criticism of what Clarke dubbed the 'Ill-fare State' of Ireland at this time (Clarke, 1968, p. 52). In these poems, Clarke scores his points through irony, wit and word-play; and it thus comes as little surprise that Jonathan Swift, the eighteenth-century Irish — indeed, Dublin — satirist, became an increasingly important figure for Clarke in his later years. Finally, Clarke turned his back on such sporadic forays into the fields of politics and topical social questions. His late work marks a return to the mythological, though his sources are Classical as well as Irish. In a fashion which again asks to be read as an attempt to swerve away from Yeats, he analysed sexuality from the position of enlightened old age, a theme evident in his 1971 comic—erotic masterpiece, Tiresias.
Kavanagh did not see any connection between his own work and that of Clarke, viewing the slightly older figure as a hang-over from the Revival; and Clarke is among those lambasted in the 1949 satire 'The Paddidad' (after Pope's The Dunciad), as 'Paddy of the Celtic West' (Kavanagh, 1996, p. 85). The work of these 'Paddies' Kavanagh called the 'Irish thing', which he viewed as suitable for export only, particularly to the United States. Unquestionably, the identification of Clarke with the Paddies-for-export is erroneous. Kavanagh never recognized — or refused to recognize — the similarity between aspects of his work and Clarke's in their respective turns to the local: Clarke to Dublin, its society, politics and culture; Kavanagh to memories of the rural parish, its life and people, a world that he left behind in 1939 when he moved to Dublin. Clarke, the fairer critic of the two, admired The Great Hunger, describing it as 'a realistic study of country life, almost Joycean in its intensity' (Clarke, 1995, p. 109). Kavanagh's 'realism' is equally evident in the wilful parochialism of the poetry he wrote subsequent to The Great Hunger. The 'parochial', for Kavanagh, is distinct from the 'provincial' mindset, the latter defining itself solely in relation to 'the metropolis':
The parochial mentality on the other hand is never in any doubt about the social and artistic validity of his parish. All great civilizations are based on parochialism - Greek, Israelite, English. In Ireland we are inclined to be provincial not parochial, for it requires a great deal of courage to be parochial. When we do attempt having the courage of our parish we are inclined to go false and play up to the larger parish on the other side of the Irish Sea. In recent times we have had two great Irish parishioners - James Joyce and George Moore. (Kavanagh, 1988, p. 206)
Kavanagh's conceptual opposition degrades Irish writers who perpetuate imperial stereotypes of Irishness, and who thus are complicit in a form of cultural neocolonialism (a charge he levelled against his own 1938 quasi-autobiographical novel The Green Fool). Writers like Joyce, in Ulysses, and Moore, in Hail and Farewell, successfully resist this temptation; and, in making the city of Dublin their parish, they equally reject any idealized monolithic conception of Irish culture, either that of the Revivalists or that of Irish Ireland and de Valera. As Antoinette Quinn suggestively argues, Kavanagh follows Joyce and Moore in deconstructing the idea of Ireland possessing an essential identity, thus eschewing the idea that there should be a national literature that embodies this essence. In Homi Bhabha's terminology, such a postcolonial strategy emphasizes the hybrid nature of modern Ireland - it has no spiritual core because it is a 'mosaic' of cultures.
During the 1960s the effects of Sean Lemass's economic policies drew Ireland out of the social and economic stagnation that Clarke's satires and Kavanagh's The Great Hunger had addressed. It is a critical commonplace to see a similar 'expansionism', on the level of culture, in the poetry of Thomas Kinsella, John Montague and, to a lesser extent, Richard Murphy, in which Irish poetry is seen to become more open to Anglo-American and other poetic influences. In their shared preface to the Dolmen Miscellany of Irish Writing (1962) Montague and Kinsella write that, linking the work of the writers therein, was the 'desire to avoid the forms of "Irishism" . . . exploited in the past' (Kinsella and Montague, 1962). Montague and Kinsella were, however, preceded by several poets in this desire: in the North, Robert Greacen had absorbed successfully much from the Neo-Romantic poets of the early 1940s; while in the South, Valentin Iremonger, in Reservations (1950), showed the possibilities for Irish poetry through going to school with Auden. Similarly, preceding Kinsella's, Montague's and Murphy's experiments in the long-poem, Eugene Watters's extraordinary The Weekend of Dermot and Grace (1964) combined the mythic structuration of The Waste Land with the linguistic fluidities of Finnegans Wake. But there is a sense in which these earlier 'expansionist' poetic projects failed, or petered out. Greacen lapsed into silence in the late 1940s, his poetic hiatus lasting well into the 1970s; twenty years separate Iremonger's first and second collections, the latter slim volume reprinting much of the first; and Watters wrote, at least in English, no other poem comparable to The Week-end. (In Irish, he wrote 'Aifreann na Marbh', a poem which, like The Week-end, deals with the bombing of Hiroshima.) With Montague and Kinsella, by way of contrast to these three slightly older poets, ambition finds itself matched by achievement.
Montague's early poetry is informed by a tension between traditionalism and experimentation, the parochial and the cosmopolitan. The roots of this tension are biographical: born in New York of emigrant parents, Montague spent his childhood in Tyrone; as an adult he was educated at University College, Dublin, and thence spent time in Paris and the States, before returning to Ireland. His poetry explores this 'tangle, a turmoil of contradictory allegiance it would take a lifetime to unravel' (Montague, 1989, pp. 8—9). Hence Montague's obsession with returning to origins, sites, memories, ancestral figures, which or whom he attempts to imaginatively reconstruct, aware that, in doing so, he is partly recomposing them precisely as images. Montague's most sustained 'backward look' is his exploration of personal and Ulster history in The Rough Field (1972), a sequence of poems which reworks, in part, material from the 1960s, bringing together pre-existing lyrics and modernist formal devices. Mapping the rough field of the townland of Garvaghey, Montague intersperses meditative and autobiographical poems with Elizabethan woodcuts and accounts of Ireland, political pamphlets and letters, in a fashion reminiscent of William Carlos Williams's and Charles Olson's deployment of found materials in Paterson and The Maximus Poems. In 'The Bread God' section of the sequence, for instance, Montague interlards his lyrics with loyalist documents and letters from his Jesuit uncle to produce 'A Collage of Religious Misunderstandings' (Montague, 1979, p. 25). This use of montage has 'the effect', in Dillon Johnson's view, of 'dissolv[ing] any sense of an authoritative causal history into separate documents defining sectarian histories' (Johnson, 1997, p. 193); and, in this respect, the open form of The Rough Field is a brilliantly realized extension of its densely conflictual content.
Such a problematic relationship to familial and national origins also marks the poetry of Kinsella. Kinsella can be interpreted as heralding many of the concerns of contemporary Irish poets in his concern with, in Deane's words, 'the need to break, however reluctantly, out of a deep insulation from the actual, and to take on again the burden of history and thereby to come to a recognition of horror and violence, the imposition of such forces upon an isolated, peripheral consciousness' (Deane, 1985, p. 137). Kinsella's trademark emphasis on suffering and brutality is coupled to the need to find in these intensely negative experiences their positive contraries. Throughout his poetry, early and late, is the belief, in his words: 'We're surrounded and penetrated by squalor, disorder and the insignificant, and I believe the artistic impulse has a great deal to do with our trying to make sense out of that' (Kinsella, 1981, p. 101). In both his poetry and literary—critical prose is the conviction that Irish history, Irish identity, and the Irish literary tradition are not givens, but must be sought out, due to the turbulent history of Ireland from the seventeenth century on. Kinsella has spoken of the 'great inheritance' that Irish-language literature bequeaths to the modern Irish writer; but it is also a 'great loss' because the 'inheritance' is only available 'at two enormous removes — across a century's silence and through an exchange of worlds' (Kinsella, 1970, p. 60). Such a double-remove is the result of the eclipse of the Irish language through the imposition and adoption of the English tongue. The modern Irish writer thus works in what Kinsella calls a 'dual tradition'; he or she has a necessarily 'divided mind', and is thus distinct from the modern English or French poet, say, whose tradition is basically monolingual, and relatively unaffected by linguistic and other forms of colonization. Hence the enormous importance that Kinsella ascribes to Joyce and his enabling downplaying of Yeats. Joyce provides a connection between the two halves of Ireland's 'divided mind' — his realism and his sense of alienation look back, argues Kinsella, to the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Gaelic poets, whose old order had collapsed after Kinsale. Yet Joyce's modern concerns, those of the urban Catholic bourgeoisie, tie him to this side, our side, of the broken tradition. He thus, in Kinsella's thought, stands opposed to Yeats who, for all his magnificence, is not part of the Irish tradition as Joyce is: he is a magnificent, but solitary figure. Joyce, by way of contrast, and despite his rejection of nationalism, religion and the Irish language, is central to the — in Kinsella's word — 'healing' of the rupture in the divided Irish psyche: 'He is the first major Irish voice to speak for Irish reality since the death-blow to the Irish language' (ibid., p. 65).
What is particularly interesting about these remarks, which Kinsella has reiterated from the mid-1960s on, is that they occlude the obviously Yeatsian qualities of much of Kinsella's early poetry. These verbal tics reveal the dependence of the poetry collected in Another September (1957) and Downstream (1962) on the lyric form that Yeats adhered to throughout his career. Kinsella's lyric subject, however, is closer to the humdrum persona of the British Movement poem than to any of Yeats's many selves; and in such reach-me-down existential angst Kinsella finds a surprising vehicle for his exploration of what is posited as an unbridgeable divide between consciousness and the object-world. The early poems read as a defensive reaction to a world which seems chaotic; reality resists the poet's rage for order, obdurately refusing to yield any epis-temological certainty. Kinsella's later poetry, beginning with Nightwalker (1968), will bypass this dualism by a subtle change in approach, in which the binary oppositions between self and world, poet and reality, give way to a more phenomenological interaction in which the mind, itself part of reality, seeks to find, in an endless process of tentative searchings, momentary and transitory order rather than the possibility of fixed and determinate bearings.
In this respect, Kinsella's poetry reflects at the level of form the sea-change in the social fabric of Ireland during the 1960s. His modernist constructivism, beginning in the late 1960s, is implicated in, even as it takes an explicit stance against, the effects of economic expansion satirized in the figure of 'Productive Investment' in 'Nightwalker', who 'beckons the nations through our gold half-door' (Kinsella, 1968, p. 59). While the decade saw economic recovery and growth reduce emigration and raise living standards, it also witnessed industrial unrest and botched housing and commercial developments, particularly in Dublin. The gradual emergence, in the late 1960s, of group politics, most significantly that of the civil rights movement in the North, followed hard on the heels of the nationalist obeisance shown in the commemorations for the revolutionaries of the Easter Rising in 1966. The immense popularity of showbands in the decade, the influence of television after Radio Telefis Eireann began broadcasting in 1961, a sharp growth in tourism, are all indices of the radical alterations in Irish culture and society during these years, as the country's economy increasingly interpenetrated with multinational capitalism. In Kinsella and Montague, among others, Irish poetry had found voices capable of articulating this new 'Irish reality'.
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PART IV Readings
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