Friday 9 December 2016

The Sunday Poem: Anthony Cronin's personal anthology

Denis Devlin

Published 22/02/2016 | 02:30

Anthony Cronin. Photo by Tony Gavin
Anthony Cronin. Photo by Tony Gavin

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.

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 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

Denis Devlin

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!

My God!

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