Patrick MacDonogh

Life
1902-1961; b. North of Ireland; ed. Avoca School and TCD; taught secondary school, and position in Guinness’s Brewery (St. James’s Gate); issued Some Occasional Verses (1927) and A Leaf in the Wind (1929); Shamrock Leaves (1936); The Vestal Fire (1941); Over the Water (1943), a longer poem; appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic; One Landscape (1958) is a collected volume. FDA DIW DIL OCIL WJM

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Works
Flirtation: Some Occasional Verses (Dublin: G. F. Healy 1927); A Leaf in the Wind (Belfast: Quota [1929]); Shamrock Leaves (Belfast 1936); The Vestal Fire: A Poem (Dublin: Orwell Press 1941); Over the Water and Other Poems (Dublin: Orwell Press 1943); One Landscape Still and Other Poems (London: Secker & Warburg 1958).

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Commentary
Brian Fallon, Irish Times ‘Reassessment’ (1991?), Patrick MacDonagh, a Northerner, held a post in Guinness, and was once a hockey international. His revival afterglow lyrics such as ‘Be Still as you Are Beautiful’ and ‘She Walked Unaware’ familiar up to a decade ago. His ‘Fields Sorrow’, perhaps his most sustained poem, shows inner questioning in the form of a powerful interior monologue with passages of moving eloquence as well as individually memorable lines and images, ‘The fields of France, huge and indifferent, / Bury their dead, and fragrant twilights fall / Ghostless in Piedmont. Something more is meant. / Maybe a land takes on its character / As much from thoe it breeds as they from it, / And more than mortal tragedy may stir / The grass that blows abov the famine pit.’ The poem end unresolved with ‘this endless quarrel between earth and sky.’ The poem ‘Over the Water’ [750 ll.] is shadowed by the London Blitz, and ‘The Frozen Garden’ is as much about wartime Europe as its ostensible wintry subject (‘your villags bombed in the sun, your cities screaming in fire’. Other poems are ‘The Widow of Drynan’, and ‘Feltrim Hill’. Perhaps his most oft-quoted verse is from the eight lines of ‘No Mean City’, Our chief delight is in devision / Whatever of Divinity / We all are Doctors of Derision’ [See misattribution, under Hilary Pyle, supra.]

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Derek Mahon, ‘Forgotten Poet Our Loss’, in The Irish Times, 14 July, 2001, p.15, being an extract from his aintroduction to Poems by Patrick MacDonogh (Gallery Press 2001); cites works, Flirtation (Dublin: G. F. Healy 1927); A Leaf in the Wind (Belfast: Quota [1929]); The Vestal Fire: A Poem (Dublin: Orwell 1941); Over the Water (Orwell 1943) [add. to EIR] One Landscape Still and Other Poems (London: Secker & Warburg 1958); omits Shamrock Leaves (Belfast [Quota] 1936). MacDonogh, b. Dublin, son of head of Avoca School, Blackrock; ed. there at at TCD; Arts; good athlete; completed PhD on William Allingham; teaching and commercial artist; joined Guinness Son & Co.; senior exec.; one of five children; played hockey for Ireland; ‘linear professional career’ (acc. Mahon); resided at Cintra, a Georgian house nr. Kinsealy, North Co. Dublin, with Ralph Cusack as a neighbour; plagued by psychiatric problems and periods in mental hospital; obliged to take early retirement; lived in reduced circs. in Malahide and Portmarnock; married to mezzo-soprano and Schubert specialist; features Kinsealy woodlands; assoc. with Lord Moyne, Con Leventhal and Seamus Kelly; ‘sensitive, much loved man’ (Brian Fallon); writes of Over the Water as ‘the culmination of his early work and … a remarkable achievement by any standards’; ‘How to explain this sudden burst of creative confidence and exactitude? An emotional setting, perhaps, with wife and family, and a new political awareness after a long silence during the 1930s - an awareness not quite explicit in the manner of Auden and MacNeice, but implicit in the situation of his “characters”, released from tedium and galvanised into fruitful tension and flow by the wartime atmosphere both in Ireland and England.’ Friendship with poet Phoebe Hesketh, the “war widow” of the poem of that title; author of “She Walked Unaware” and “The Widow of Drynam”, folk poems; ‘These dramatic monologues, rural in setting, their speakers respectively a love-lorn youth and a proud old woman, are beautifully crafted utterances, artefacts even, from the much maligned Yeats and de Valera era of traditional sanctity and comeliness [viz., ‘loveliness’ in Yeats and ‘comely maidens’ in de Valera], which produced so much of the finest Irish art and literature. A centuries-old tradition of aisling and cailleach lives on in both,m together with unregenerate eroticism and radical defiance. Here are Synge’s “wild words”, the garrulous narration, dramatic self-awareness and aristocratic peasant pride, the wandering lines and “planted” off-rhymes, the concrete imagery and emotional realism of Ó Rathaille and Eibhlín Dhubh Ní Chonaill. Mahon indicates in the phrase ‘fruitful friendship’ and its context, the discussion of certain poems addressed to her, that MacDonogh had an affair with Hesketh. Notes that hand corrections in copies of Over the Water, which MacDonogh was prevented from correcting due to illness at the date when the proofs arrived, are included in the new edition. Mahon writes: ‘If , with the reinvasion of Ireland and other vulnerable societies by “global capital”, and the resulting devastation, the work of the Revival has to be done again, MacDonogh and others may yet come into their own. [...] MacDonogh needs to be looked at again.’ Quotes from MacDonagh’s article in The Dublin Magazine, 1958, citing those things which he revered: ‘religious faith, love between man and woman, nobility of conduct, unexplained gaiety of the heart, order and beauty in the natural world.’ [END].

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References
John Montague, ed., Faber Book of Irish Verse (London: Faber 1974), selects ‘Now the Holy Lamp of Love’ [‘Decent doors at edge of dark / Long ago have ceased to shout.. God’s own fox will have his way / This night or some other night’]; ‘No Mean City’; extract from ‘Escape to Love’ [‘Alone and Godless ... he sees, from his own life’s ultimate ledge, symbols of fear and love where slow black families / Creep home from church, home from huge mysteries, / From terrible love’s kitchen cares.. //.. Two God-fed Christians, freed for sweet Sunday sport,/Each with his murderous hound ... Apex of all earth’s unescapable woes / The ousted hare ... death’s sharp angle narrows to its close ..’ [the hare escapes].

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), best work in One Landscape Still, showing improvement of technique, among continuing ‘gaffes and failures’, and singles out for praise the title poem, with ‘Feltrim Hill’, or v. impressive ‘The Bone-Bright Tree’.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry 1991), remarks, ‘after initial burst of creativity published nothing between 1929 and 1941, and thereafter appeared regularly in Dublin Magazine.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, remarks by Declan Kiberd [ed.], 1309 [unlike Devlin did not find an enabling myth to free from provincialism]; 1310 [some grave and beautiful poems; no accomodation of conflict within poetry; indepbted to poets gof 1890s but avoids artificially induced high temperature]; from One Landscape Still [1317-19], ‘No Mean City’, ‘Be Still as You Are Beautiful’; ‘Of Late’; ‘She Walked Unaware’ [‘..of her own increasing beauty / That was holding men’s thoughts from market or plough / As she passed by intent on her womanly duties / And she passed without leisure to be wayward or proud ... Tonight she will spread her brown hair on his pillow / But I shall be hearing the harsh cries of wild fowl’]; ‘Flowering Currant’; ‘O Come to the Land’ [‘.. of the saint and the scholar / Where learning and piety live without quarrel / Where the coinage of mind outvalues the dollar / And God is the immanent shaper of thought and behaviour ... [stanza two, ital.: ] No, but come to a land where the secret censor / Snouts in the dark, where authority smothers / The infant conscience and shadows a denser / Darkness on ignorant minds in their tortuous groping ..’]; BIOG, 1431, as above.

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Notes
Hilary Pyle
, in Estelle Solomons, Patriot Portraits (1966), ascribes to Seamus O’Sullivan [James Starkey] a verse-description of Dubliners - viz., ‘Whatever of Divinity / We are all Doctors of Derision’ - which comes from the poem ‘No Mean City’ by MacDonogh [see FDA3, 1317].

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