Monday 19 March 2018

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: Swimming with Beckett

Martello Tower, Dalkey. Pic: Airbnb
Martello Tower, Dalkey. Pic: Airbnb

Last week , President Michael D Higgins formally opened the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the laying of the Dún Laoghaire harbour foundation stone.

A mighty attraction at the far end of Dún Laoghaire is the Forty Foot bathing place with its Martello tower, which James Joyce had rented for himself and his literary pals in the summer of 1904.

A whole chapter of Joyce's Ulysses is set in the tower. Today, it has become a museum much visited by Joyceans from all over the world. Another well-known writer, Leonard Alfred George Strong ('LAG'), spent many summer holidays in Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey. In his poem printed right, 'The Forty Foot', appear the names of literary figures and swimmers who used to frequent this splendid swimming spot.

Strong had much fame in England, where he had been awarded one of the most prestigious literary prizes, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, for his short story collection entitled Travellers.

'The Forty Foot' I think has caught, in admirable fashion, the spirit of this marvellous bathing place.

PS: The Beckett referred to in the poem is none other than our own Sam...

from The Forty Foot

Dockrell, Tallon, Beckett then

Were the days of mighty men!

Holmes, McGuinness, Fawcett, Chute

An Eldorado of the brute

Strength and grace of naked man:

Sure, I am that no one can

Swim and dive the like of them.

Dockrell, Tallon, Beckett where

Are the men I worshipped there?

Some still rub the pink flesh dry

Some have laid their towels by

Some go round the round tower still

Some are passed to Hy-Brazil

Where Fawcett, he that dived and died,

Now plunges in a fairer tide.

L.A.G. Strong 1896-1958

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