O! the Erne shall run red
With redundance of blood, The earth shall rock beneath our tread,
And flames wrap hill and wood, And gun-peal, and slogan cry,
Wake many a glen serene, Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die, My Dark Rosaleen! My own Rosaleen! The Judgment Hour must first be nigh, Ere you can fade, ere you can die, My Dark Rosaleen!44
This is a translation, or version, in the eighteenth-century sense: Mangan makes no effort to replicate the formal characteristics of the original, and if not exactly periphrastic, he adds a lot of expletive material. He also loses the goings-on behind the lios, but he compensates for this by the addition of some impressive effects, such as the priests marching along the Deep, the speaker scaling the blue air and the flames wrapping hill and wood. (Another persuasive reading of the poem is that it is voiced by a priest to his forbidden love.) The poem became the most important single text of nationalist literature in the nineteenth century. It moves Irish readers to protect their nation with the same passion as they would protect their lovers, were they threatened; it inures its readers to the idea of necessary bloodshed, and yet, as in 'Oh! Breathe Not His Name', it is innocent from a forensic point of view, as it never quite comes to the point. Among Mangan's other well-known versions of Irish poems are 'An Elegy on the Tironian and Tirconnellian Princes Buried at Rome', 'O'Hussey's Ode to the Maguire', 'The Woman of Three Cows' and 'Lament over the Ruins of the Abbey of Teach Molaga'.
Mangan also translated from German throughout his life (he was a private tutor of German for a while), and he introduced Irish readers to many important figures in contemporary German poetry such as Friedrich von Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Rtickert and Ludwig Tieck. Because German philological scholarship was unparalleled in Europe in the nineteenth century, the language also became a gateway for Mangan to poetry from further afield -especially Turkish and Arabic - as Mangan used the German translations as the basis for his own into English; he even produced some work 'from the Coptic', confusing Goethe's original poems for translations from the dead language.
To know more than one language is to be more than one person: moving between languages one changes one's breathing, facial gestures, posture and sometimes even one's disposition. Mangan was particularly aware of these possibilities in his work as a translator and began fabricating translations that had no original, and fabricating poets to go with them, such as the above-mentioned Selber and Drechsler. In magazine publications he would often attach mock-academic notes to his translations referring to non-existent scholars. His playfulness is also exhibited in the many travesties, parodies and comic verses that he produced, often with outrageously funny mosaic rhymes (one example from the 'Song for Coffee-Drinkers': 'sick, quits/poli-tic wits/liquids/quick wits'45). Reading Mangan is often like watching a manic comic actor let loose in a costume rental shop, and one often doubts his high pathos, as the memory of his burlesque performances still lingers. (Sometimes in the poems which seek to express violent nationalist passion, he employs mosaic rhyme, a device which belongs rather in comic verse.) David Lloyd expresses one implication of all this play:
The difference between Moore's notes [in Lalla Rookh] and Mangan's lies in their opposed functions. Moore's provide a set of sources that substantiate the authenticity of the oriental scenario. To read among them is, almost literally, to be enriched and reassured of containing and possessing the Orient. In Mangan's case, the notes perform quite the opposite role, actually undermining one's sense of mastery of a certain field; while accumulating a vast capital of ostensibly authenticating sources, they turn the reader's investment of labor into a depletion of his resources. Both the poems and the articles absorb their readers in a quest for origins which, since those origins are perpetually falsified, becomes unendingly protracted.46
The point that Lloyd makes in his Nationalism and Minor Literature: James Clarence Mangan and the Emergence of Irish Cultural Nationalism (1987) is that Mangan's pseudo-translations call into question the Irish nationalist project of transferring the national spirit from Gaelic literature to English in order to build an Anglophone Irish nation.
It would be interesting if these comic subversions lost their strength as the 1840s progressed, with the decline in Mangan's health and Ireland's endurance of the worst era of its history. The terse strength of a poem like 'Siberia' encourages such a view. He writes that 'Lost Siberia doth reveal / Only blight and death'; the last verse reads:
And such doom each drees,
Till, hunger-gnawn, And cold-slain, he at length sinks there, Yet scarce more a corpse than ere His last breath was drawn.47
It would be difficult to get a more concise picture of Ireland in the late 1840s than is provided by this stanza. And yet, in the same issue of the Nation, we encounter a 'Persian' poem entitled 'To the Ingleezee Khafir, Calling Himself Djaun Bool Djenkinzun':
Thus writeth Meer Djafrit (1) -
I hate thee, Djaun Bool, Worse than Marid or Afrit (2), Or corpse-eating Ghool...
That thou thus shouldst disturb an Old Moslim like me,
With my Khizzilbash (4) turban! Old fogy like me,
With my Khizzilbash turban!48
Many Irish nationalists did indeed hate John Bull, but the joke here is on them, even as Mangan deplored the ravages of British rule in 'Siberia'. He pops Khizzilbash turbans on the heads of John Mitchel, Thomas Davis and Charles Gavan Duffy, the leaders ofYoung Ireland, and does a merry dance about them. It is easy to see why James Joyce thought so highly of Mangan: here was a writer who engaged deeply with the issue of Ireland, confronting its travails with a mixture of solemnity and self-mockery, while flying by the nets of nationality and language, just as he would do himself.
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