Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Monday 25 September 2017

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: A Celtic instinct

Ulick O'Connor
Ulick O'Connor

Ulick O'Connor

This year is the 195th anniversary of the birth of Matthew Arnold, one of the really important English poets of the 19th century. He took up the Celtic cause for us early on when he claimed that English verse was highly influenced by Gaelic poets. This didn't go down too well, implying that 'Paddies' had a hand in the creation of the work of the English poet.

Matthew Arnold was the son of the founder of Rugby School (where the eccentric game was invented), and his brother Thomas became a professor at University College Dublin who frequently had to field questions from a short-sighted student called James Joyce concerning his use of the English language.

Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach' resounds with the crash of waves breaking on the beach. It is superb. One likes to think that it was the Celtic instinct that stirred him when he set out to reproduce for us the sound of nature at play for he has certainly done it here with this poem.

from DOVER BEACH

Listen! You hear the grating roar

of pebbles which the waves suck back and fling,

At their return up the high strand.

The sea of faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating to the breath

Of the night-wind down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! For the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain.

Matthew Arnold 1822-1888

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