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This is the seventieth anniversary of the death of the poet Joseph Campbell. His best known poem is one of the most beautiful and loved songs sung today

This is the seventieth anniversary of the death of the poet Joseph Campbell. His best known poem is one of the most beautiful and loved songs sung today My Lagan Love.

The words based on a traditional air were set to music by Sir Herbert Hughes, and the combination proved a perfect blend. Hughes had already worked to hammer out music lyrics with poets Padraic Colum and Seamus O'Sullivan.

Campbell was a testy bloke though and this is one reason why I think he has never received proper recognition as a poet. The poet Francis Stuart, who admired him, commented to me.

"That fella went to prison during the Civil War deliberately in order to get away from his own wife. That's neither patriotism nor poetry".

Nevertheless Francis would agree Campbell wrote good poetry. He was after all Yeats' favourite poet among the young poets who were around in the years before World War 1.

Joseph Campbell was involved in the 1916 Rising. Afterwards he fought in the Tan war and later took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War.

He was a Belfast Catholic whose father, a successful builder, supplied a small private income that Joseph needed to survive in the brilliant world of literary revival that was taking place in Dublin in the first half of the 20th century.

Campbell went back and forward across the Atlantic a few times between the wars and lectured at Fordham University in New York.

He eventually settled down in Glencree, County Wicklow in 1939 where he could listen to the birds without fear of contradiction.

He was a member of the United Arts Club and I used hear about his explosive speeches which were apparently always enjoyable.

A magnificent poem of his which appeared in The Irish Review in 1912 shows the command he had over words when he wished to bring an image of the dancer's art before the mind's eye.


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