The Sunday Poem: Anthony Cronin's personal anthology
Denis Devlin, together with Samuel Beckett and Brian Coffey, was part of the first broken wave of Irish modernism. One can see this in his sometimes wilful obscurity and his somewhat contrived Europeanness.
Lough Derg is an attempt to show the European aspects of Irish religious asceticism. Devlin, two years younger than Beckett, was born in Scotland in 1908 and returned to Ireland with his parents as a boy. Abandoning his intention to be ordained as a Jesuit, he studied at the Sorbonne which was where he met fellow modernists Beckett and Thomas McGreevy.
He lectured for a period at UCD but, like many another Irish writer, later joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, working in New York and Washington. In 1958, he became Ambassador to Italy. He died in Dublin the following year. His Collected Poems, edited by Brian Coffey, was published posthumously.
from Lough Derg
All indiscriminate, man, stone, animal
Are woken up in nightmare. What John the Blind
From Patmost saw works and we speak it. Not all
The men of God nor the priests of mankind
Can mend or explain the good and broke, not one
Generous with love prove communion.
Then to see less, look little, let hearts' hunger
Feed on water and berries. The pilgrims sing:
Life will fare well from elder to younger,
Though courage fail in a world-end, rosary ring.
Courage kills its practitioners and we live,
Nothing forgotten, nothing to forgive,
We pray to ourself. The metal moon, unspent
Virgin eternity sleeping in the mind,
Excites the form of prayer without content;
Whithethorn lightens, delicate and blind,
The negro mountain, and so, knelt on her sod,
This woman beside me murmuring My God!
Sunday Indo Living