Thursday 29 September 2016

Poetry: from Dublin, Louis MacNeice

Anthony Cronin

Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30

Dublin skyline vintage engraved illustration
Dublin skyline vintage engraved illustration

I remember when Louis MacNeice's poem about Dublin appeared in a special Irish issue of the London literary magazine Horizon some time in the late 1940s and thinking how good it was, in spite of being near to cliché in places. Because he was such a brilliant versifier he could write 'travel' poems or merely descriptive verse with a freshness others could not command.

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There is the essential element of surprise in almost every rhyme. "Taps" with "collapse" is a perfect example. Of course it was Nelson who collapsed eventually and not perhaps his world, but no matter.

And Dublin troubled MacNeice, as it has troubled other Northern poets. And being troubled by something or some place or someone may well be the best inspiration for a poem of any sort.

from Dublin, Louis MacNeice

Grey brick upon brick,

Declamatory bronze

On sombre pedestals -

O'Connell, Grattan, Moore -

And the brewery tugs and the swans

On the balustraded stream

And the bare bones of a fanlight

Over a hungry door

And the air soft on the cheek

And porter running from the taps

With a head of yellow cream

And Nelson on his pillar

Watching his world collapse.

This was never my town,

I was not born nor bred

Nor schooled here and she will not

Have me alive or dead.

But yet she holds my mind

With her seedy elegance,

With her gentle veils of rain

And all her ghosts that walk

And all that hide behind

Her Georgian facades -

The catcalls and the pain,

The glamour of her squalor,

The bravado of her talk.

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