Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Friday 14 December 2018

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: A critic of Dev's myopia

Éamon De Valera. Photo: Getty Images
Éamon De Valera. Photo: Getty Images

Ulick O'Connor

Oliver St John Gogarty, whom I have written about recently, used to ride his horse on the golden sand at Sandymount. Yeats held him to be one of the great lyric poets of the time.

Gogarty had also been 20-mile cycle champion of Ireland, at a time when the country had world champions at the sport.

As a first-class ear, nose and throat surgeon, he was recognised as the pioneer of a cure for a nose disease. Truly a renaissance man.

But his bubbling energy and a touch of patriotism wouldn't let him keep his nose out of politics, and he was a Sinn Féin nationalist under Arthur Griffith's presidency, and subsequently ended up as a very active senator.

A lot of his energy was used against the one character he most disliked in Irish politics, Éamon de Valera, who he dismissed with a derisive couplet.

"He tried to bring Ireland a Utopia

But all we got was Dev's myopia"

A little harsh, perhaps, because The Long Fellow really did suffer from failing eyesight, and whether Oliver liked it or not, he was set up to become one of the great Irishmen of history.

When Oliver Gogarty wrote his poem 'Ringsend' in 1935, he was 57 years of age.

It appeared along with 17 other poems by Gogarty in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, more than any other poet in the collection.

This success was all the more striking since Yeats had included only seven poems by TS Elliot and four by WH Auden in the volume.

RINGSEND

I will live in Ringsend

With a red-headed whore,

And the fan-light gone in

Where it lights the hall-door;

And listen each night

For her querulous shout,

As at last she streels in

And the pubs empty out.

To soothe that wild breast

With my old-fangled songs,

Till she feels it redressed

From inordinate wrongs,

Imagined, outrageous,

Preposterous wrongs,

Till peace at last comes,

Shall be all I will do,

Where the little lamp blooms

Like a rose in the stew;

And up the back-garden

The sounds come to me

Of the lapsing, unsoilable,

Whispering sea.

Oliver St John Gogarty 1878-1957

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