John Keegan Casey

Life
1846-1870 [J. K. Casey; “Leo” of The Nation ]; b. Mount Dalton, Co. Westmeath (nr. Mullingar); ed. there and Ballymahony, Co. Longford; principal teacher at Cleraun and Keenagh schools; m. Mary Briscoe; contrib. to The Nation as ‘Leo’, also to Irishman, Irish People, &c.; A Wreath of Shamrocks (1866); imprisoned 1867, but release after a year in ill health; The Rising of the Moon etc. (1869 ); a reputed 50,000 attended his funeral in Dublin; William Bulfin devotes a chapter to him in his Rambles in Eirinn (1907). CAB PI JMC DBIV TAY MKA FDA DIW DIB DIH OCIL

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Works
E. Davis, ed., Reliques of J. K. Casey (Dublin: Pig[g]ott 1878).

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Criticism
McKenna (Irish Literature, 1978), bibl. includes ‘Biog. and Critical Introduction’ in Reliques of John K. Casey (‘Leo’), collected and ed. Davis (Dublin: Pigott 1878).

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Quotations
Maire, my Girl”: ‘the dim blue hills / Strays a wild river, / Over the dim blue hills / Rests my heart ever. / Dearer and brighter than / Jewels and pearl, / Dwells she in beauty there, / Maire, my girl. // Down upon Claris heath / Shines the soft berry, / On the brown harvest tree / Droops the red cherry. / Sweeter thy honey lips, / Softer the curl / Straying adown thy cheeks, / Maire, my girl. // ’Twas on an April eve / That I first met her; / Many an eve shall pass / Ere I forget her. / Since, my young heart has been / Wrapped in a whirl, / Thinking and dreaming of / Maire, my girl. //   She is too kind and fond / Ever to grieve me, / She has too pure a heart / E’er to deceive me. / Were I Tryconnell’s chief / Or Desmond’s earl, / Life would be dark, wanting / Maire, my girl! // Over the dim blue hills / Strays a wild river, / Over the dim blue hills / Rests my heart ever. / Dearer and brighter than / Jewels or pearl, / Dwells she in beauty there, / Maire, my girl.’ (Given in E. A. Sharp, Lyra Celtica, Edinburgh 1896.)

The Rising of the Moon”: ‘O then tell me Shawn O'Farrell / Where the gathering is to be / In the old spot by the river / Right well known to you and me ... / I bear orders from the captain / Get you ready quick and soon / For the pikes must be together / At the rising of the Moon.’ (Quoted in Patrick Kavanagh, ‘Nationalism and Literature’, in Collected Prose; rep. in Mark Storey, Poetry and Ireland Since 1800, London: Routledge 1988, p.203. Note that Kavanagh associates the poem with the ‘unworkable’ Irish myth that ‘only got properly going about fifty years ago.’)

Intemperance ”: ‘The Irishman by nature is no sot / And drinks much less than Englishman or Scot. / He could not, even though he had the will; / He lacks the cash ...’ (Intemperance, 1876.)

Nationalist poet: Casey professed that his poetry was mostly nationalist ‘as every man is bound to love his country, and try to serve her in her day of trial’ (Preface, Rising of the Moon.)

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Commentary
W. B. Yeats: ‘These three poets published much of their best work before and during the Fenian movement, which, like Young Ireland, had its poets, though but a small number. Charles Kickham, one of the ”triumvirate” that controlled it in Ireland; John Casey, a clerk in a flour mill [sic]; and Ellen O’Leary, the sister of Mr. John O’Leary, were at times very excellent. Their verse lacks, curiously enough, the oratorical vehemence of Young Ireland, and is plaintive and idyllic.’ (‘Modern Irish Poetry’, in Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature, 1904, Vol. III, p.xi.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, selects ‘The Rising of the Moon’ [110-111].

Dictionary of Irish History quotes comments in London Review: ‘Mr. Casey puts treason in a fascinating and intelligent manners’.

Ulster Libraries: Belfast Public Library holds Intemperance (1876); The Rising of the Moon &c (1907). University of Ulster (Morris Collection) holds The Rising of the Moon, and Other Ballads, songs and legends (Gill, 1933); A Wreath of Shamrocks, ballads, songs and legends (McGee 1866).

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Notes
Funeral march: The reputed 50,000 attendance at his funeral is doubted by Chris Morash but printed in Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, p.114.

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