EN3604 Week 4: Poetry of Revolution and Resolution
Writing Ireland Week 4: “All changed, changed utterly”: Poetry of Revolution and Resolution
The War of Independence/The Anglo-Irish War 21st January 1919–11th July 1921
The Irish Civil War (1922-3)‘The Anglo-Irish Treaty signed on 11thJuly 1921 precipitated civil war betweenthe Free Staters under Collins andGriffith who accepted the Treaty, and theRepublicans under de Valera whorefused to take the oath of allegiance tothe Crown and refused to concede thesix counties of Ulster.’ (Elmer Andrews, p.103)
The IRA‘Men joined theVolunteers/IRA forrecreational and socialreasons as well as politicalones. It provided acolourful alternative tothe monotony of small-town life: many veteranswere to look back onthese years as thehappiest of their lives.’Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence(Dublin, 2002), p.106.
Relevance to Irish Writing• ‘In such circumstances, autobiography, or the writing of a memoir […] is always going to reproduce, in some variation, those ultimately disturbing queries about the issue of identity, national or personal.’ Seamus Deane et al. The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, (Derry, 1991), p.380.• ‘The elision of the personal and the national, the way history becomes a kind of scaled up biography, and biography a microcosmic history, is a particularly Irish phenomenon.’ R. F. Foster, The Irish Story : Telling Tales and Making It up in Ireland, (London, 2002), p.xi.
O’Connor: Nation and Self‘It was a period of political unrest, and, in a way,this was a relief, because it acted as a safetyvalve for my own angry emotions. Indeed, itwould be truer to say that the Irish nation andmyself were both engaged in an elaborateprocess of improvisation. I was improvising aneducation I could not afford, and the country wasimprovising a revolution it could not afford.’(O’Connor, p.184)
O’Faolain: Reality of War‘In my six years as a rank-and-filer of theIRA I shot nobody and was briefly underfire once. I have no war memories torecord except ‘Were those the Troubles?And if so was it a revolution?’(O’Faolain, p.137)
“There was only one thing each of us knew he could do well, and must do O’Faolain: Reality of Warwell if called upon to do it, the least active rank-and-filer, the humblestcitizen. If arrested and condemned for any or no reason, each man knewthat he could die – “For Ireland!” This is not romanticism; the time for beingromantic about those years has long since gone; and any young man ofthose years, and they were enough, who died facing a firing squad may wellhave been white and terrified at the end. But it must surely have helpedhim to know that he was dying for something as fervently as we believed inIreland then. I wish to God I could believe in anything as fervently now”(O’Faolain, 138).“Nobody wanted to contemplate being stripped, having his testiclesrhythmically beaten with a swinging revolver butt, his eyeballs persistentlyrapped with the ends of fountain pens, bayonets stuck in him, his feetstamped to a pulp, his toenails pulled out, and more; all the things thatEnglish gentlemen just do not do, nor French, nor Jews, nor Irish, norAmericans, nor anybody, but are done by them all, are being done, oneneed have no least doubt, somewhere at this moment, and will always goon being done in time of war” (O’Faolain, 138).
‘Life through a veil of literature’‘Nowadays I merely wonder at my own behaviour andremember with revulsion that I once wore a dead boy’sblood-stained cap. It was not merely that I couldn’t affordto lose a cap. I fancy the truth is that nothing of it was realto me, and it never once occurred to me that the boywhose cap I was wearing had that day been as living asmyself, and perhaps loved his mother as much as I didmine. It was all as if I had read about it in War and Peace.’(O’Connor, pp.223-4)
‘Impaled on one green corner of the universe’‘By the end of the Civil War life hadpresented itself to me, forever, under theform of a number of ineluctable challenges,or experiences, densely compressed intothe one world, Ireland.’ (O’Faolain, p.174)
The ‘Spirits’ of the ‘Ages’‘From the 1950s, such bread and butter issues as wages,standards of living, and social reform began to outflank the‘national question’ and the old civil war divide as electoralpriorities, while some older assumptions about authentic Irishidentity and Ireland’s place in the world underwent far-reaching revision.’Senia Paseta, Modern Ireland : A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford, 2003), p.128.‘The passage of time in between also shapes the telling of astory, and the vantage point from which it is told maydetermine whether it is opening up, or in fact sealing off, atroubled past […] the cultural spaces from which they areretrieved have as much to do with now as then.’Luke Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture, (Cork, 1996), p.96.
Lasting Impact‘So traumatic was the rearrangement of relations with GreatBritain, and so powerful the emotions and beliefs needed tonegotiate those changes, that the revolutionary periodmaintained a hold on the Irish imagination long after 1922. […]Who am I in relation to the groups and the beliefs and thepolitical affiliations I perceive around me? Who am I in relationto the past from which I believe myself to have emerged andthe future towards which I believe myself to be moving?’Gerry Smyth, The Novel & the Nation, (London, 1997), pp.3-4.
Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939 : The Lake Isle of Innisfree [from The Poems (1997) , Scribner : The Rose 1893 ]The Lake Isle of 1 I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, 2 And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Innisfree 3 Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, 4 And live alone in the bee-loud glade. 5 And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, 6 Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; 7 There midnights all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, 8 And evening full of the linnets wings. 9 I will arise and go now, for always night and day 10 I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 11 While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, 12 I hear it in the deep hearts core.
1 Know, that I would accounted beTo Ireland in the Coming Times 2 True brother of a company 3 That sang, to sweeten Irelands wrong, 4 Ballad and story, rann and song; 5 Nor be I any less of them, 6 Because the red-rose-bordered hem 7 Of her, whose history began 8 Before God made the angelic clan, 9 Trails all about the written page. 10 When Time began to rant and rage 11 The measure of her flying feet 12 Made Irelands heart begin to beat; 13 And Time bade all his candles flare 14 To light a measure here and there; 15 And may the thoughts of Ireland brood 16 Upon a measured quietude. 17 Nor may I less be counted one 18 With Davis, Mangan, Ferguson, 19 Because, to him who ponders well, 20 My rhymes more than their rhyming tell 21 Of things discovered in the deep, 22 Where only bodys laid asleep. 23 For the elemental creatures go 24 About my table to and fro, 25 That hurry from unmeasured mind 26 To rant and rage in flood and wind; 27 Yet he who treads in measured ways 28 May surely barter gaze for gaze. 29 Man ever journeys on with them
Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939 : No Second Troy [from The Poems (1997) , Scribner : The Green Helmet and OtherNo Second Troy Poems 1910 ] 1 Why should I blame her that she filled my days 2 With misery, or that she would of late 3 Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways, 4 Or hurled the little streets upon the great, 5 Had they but courage equal to desire? 6 What could have made her peaceful with a mind 7 That nobleness made simple as a fire, 8 With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind 9 That is not natural in an age like this, 10 Being high and solitary and most stern? 11 Why, what could she have done, being what she is? 12 Was there another Troy for her to burn?
Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939 : Easter, 1916 [from The Poems (1997) , Scribner : Michael Robartes and the Dancer 1921 ] 1 I have met them at close of dayEaster 1916 2 Coming with vivid faces 3 From counter or desk among grey 4 Eighteenth-century houses. 5 I have passed with a nod of the head 6 Or polite meaningless words, 7 Or have lingered awhile and said 8 Polite meaningless words, 9 And thought before I had done 10 Of a mocking tale or a gibe 11 To please a companion 12 Around the fire at the club, 13 Being certain that they and I 14 But lived where motley is worn: 15 All changed, changed utterly: 16 A terrible beauty is born. […]
Chapman, Wayne K. “Joyce and Yeats:Easter 1916 and the Great War” NewHibernia Review, Volume 10, Number4, Geimhreadh/Winter 2006, pp. 137- 151
Next Week Week 6: “No Surrender”?: Conflicts within and Beyond MacLaverty, Bernard. Cal (London: Cape, 1983) Peter Mahon, “Blood, Shit, and Tears The Textual Reinscription of Sacrifice, Ritual, and Victimhood in Bernard MacLavertys Cal” ELH, Volume 77, Number 1, Spring 2010