Robert Farren (1909-84)



[Roibeard Ó Faracháin; earlier Riobárd], b. Robert Farren, in working-class Dublin; ed. St. Patrick’s Training College and UCC; MA Thomistic Philosophy; worked as teacher in Dublin till becoming Radio Eireann talks officer, 1939; Features Officer, 1943; MIAL; co-founder of Irish Lyric Theatre with Austin Clarke, 1944; Abbey Director, 1940-73; Controller of Programmes (radio), Deputy Director, RÉ, 1947, and Controller, 1953-1974; ; poet and short-story writer; Fíon gan Mhoirt (1938);
his plays include Assembly at Druim Ceat [var. Convention], and Lost Light (both Abbey 1943); poetry in English, Thronging Feet (1936; US edn. 1937), intro. by Daniel Corkery; Time’s Wall Asunder (1939); The First Exile (1944), an epic poem on St. Columcille; Rime Gentlemen, Please (1945); Selected Poems (1951); also Towards An Appreciation of Poetry (1947); The Course of Irish Verse (1947), promoting assonantial prosody as a measure of Irishness; reputedly saw to it that kavanagh’s Tarry Flynn was unbanned. DIW DIB OCIL

[ top ]

Poetry, Thronging Feet (London: Sheed & Ward 1936); Time’s Wall Asunder (London: Sheed & Ward 1939); This Man was Ireland: A Poem (1943; published in London as The First Exile (London: Sheed & Ward 1944); Rime Gentlemen, Please: Selected Poems (London: Sheed & Ward 1945); Selected Poems (Lon&NY: Sheed and Ward 1951).

Criticism, The Course of Irish Verse (NY: Sheed & Ward 1947; London Edn. 1948), 171pp. [index. p.169ff.; infra]; Towards An Appreciation of Poetry (Dublin: Metropolitan 1947).

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
The Course of Irish Verse in English (NY: Sheed & Ward 1947), 171pp. [index. p.169ff.] CONTENTS: Preface [xi]; I. Beginnings: Goldsmith, Swift, Berkeley, Burke and Sheridan [1]; II. The Irish Mode in Thomas Moore [4]; III. The Non-contributors: George Darley, John Francis Waller [9]; IV. Irish Themes: The common Irish; Catholicism; Fairy Magic; History; Mythology; Patriotic Sentiment [12]; V. J. J. Callanan, ‘The sweet wild twist of Irish Song’ [20]; VI. Sir Samuel Ferguson: Heroic legend; Assonance; Translations from Gaelic Poetry [23]; VII. Edward Walsh, translator: ‘The one fully-orbed Irishman’ [28]; VIII. James Clarence Mangan: A poet of major dimensions; Gaelic melody and extravagance; the Nation group [30]; IX. The changing atmosphere [43]; X. Aubrey de Vere [44]; XI. Denis Florence MacCarthy [46]; XII. William Allingham: Remodelling of old ballads; Anglo-Irish speech; Magic-poetry [47]; ‘Aghadoe’ and ‘Stumpie’s Brae’; ‘The Semi-Scottish dialect’ [[53]; XIV. William Larminie: Assonance; Hyde; The summing up of the translation movement; The Love Songs of Connacht [57]; XV. Yeats: leader of a movement; the ear of the world; Style; An Irish poet; A theatre; Statement of aims [64]; XVI “A.E.” (George Russell); Propaganda [79]; XVII ‘A.E.’s Canaries’ [86]; XVIII ‘Seamus O’Sullivan: The Dubliner [86]; XIX. Joseph Campbell: the Antrim-man; Scottish folklore; Simple man and sage; Gaelic Poetry [90]; XX. Padraic Colum: Midlander; translator; ‘The most Irish of living poets?’ [98]; XXI. James Stephens: The Rending of the Veil; Insurrections; Lyricism; Fantasy; Rebel into lover [104]; XXII. Francis Ledwidge: Meathman; Pastoral Poetry; 1916; ‘Irish at the end’ [114]; XXIII. Ledwidge’s ‘Blackbirds’: The 1916 poets; Loss to intellectual Catholicism and Gaelic influence [118]; XXIV. Synge: Revolt against tapestry poetry; ‘Verse must learn to be brutal’; Synge’s ramifying influence [123]; XXV. Influence of the Rising on F. R. Higgins and Austin Clarke [128]; XXVI. Higgins: poetry with two native counties [sic]; A country Poet; Imagery; Assonance [131]; XXVII. Higgins and Austin Clarke: likeness and unlikeness [147]; XXVIII. Austin Clarke: Epic; Plays; Lyric; a metamorphosed Catholicism; Irish weather; Gaelic prosody; History and myth; Night and Morning; Clarke in the theatre; Humour [150]; XXIX. Irish poetry now [165]. See also under Quotations, infra.

[ top ]

‘The Gaelic Voice in Anglo-Irish Poetry’, in Seán Lucy, Irish Poets in English (Mercier 1972), pp.131-144; Robert Farren, The First Exile (1944) [on Colum Cille]; Farren, ‘How an American Professor came to Write on the 1798 Rising’ (Evening Herald 13 July 1979) [cited Alan Titley, An tÚrscéal Gaeilge, 1991].

[ top ]

Anthony Cronin, Heritage Now: Irish Literature in English (Dingle: Brandon 1982), remarks: ‘Roibeard Ó Farachain even wrote a book which suggested that assonance was the way in which we could all strengthen our Irishness and was, therefore, the way forward. Ah well.’ (p.13.)

Robert Greacen, in Even Without Irene (1969; 1995), records that Robert Farren was the poet whom Kavanagh most despised (p.164).

[ top ]

The Course of Irish Verse in English
(London: Sheed & Ward 1948) is concerned to show ‘the course of Irish poetry in the English language; to observe and remark upon the growth in Irishness, in separate existence from English poetry, of the poetry that was and is composed in Ireland or by Irishmen.’ (Introduction, p.xi.). Further, ‘It is to be hoped that Irish poets will never cease to read the poetry of other countries and to absorb and adopt to their own ends whatever other countries have to teach them; but this must be done as the body absorbs and transforms its food - as a means of nourishing a poetry which remains its own - it is scarcely a sign of rude health if a tiger’s body turns into a lion’s. That would not be in the order of natural events, and the tiger’s body could not be said to be finding its greater perfection. / Irish poetry on the whole, and certainly in its better part, is decidedly Irish.’ (Ibid., p.195; both quoted in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, London: Pluto Press 1998.) The book offers short passages of commentary on major Irish poets with Austin Clarke in the place of honour, as well as lesser figures such as Darley and Waller (‘non-contributors’), Aubrey de Vere, Denis Florence McCarthy, William Larminie, Seamus O’Sullivan, Ledwidge, F. R. Higgins. [Cont.]

The Course of Irish Verse in English (1948) - cont.: ‘[F. R.] Higgins’s work is a witness at hand, apt and telling as a heart could sigh-for, that Irish poets will profit by being last-page Candides, by growing their own potatoes in their own back-gardens; while importing foreign fertilizers when these will help,, and importing the grapes and the lemons and the currents and bananas, and all the toothsome fruits our own soil won’t grow. The making of a national poetry (to go from the top of the earth to its bowels for a change of image) may be a labour in the mines; but the Jones who goes down with his pcik for coal is the Jones who comes up with his paw for pay; while your cosmopolitian is more like Nirvana: you pay for its absence of pain by its absence of you. It has always seemed to the Western man to be better to be silly than [131] extinct; you so you had better be a national ass - a frivolous Frenchman, we’ll say, or a muzzy German, a blocke[y]ed Englishman or even a priestridden Irishman - than merely to rejoice as a grey, indiscriminate [byulle] in the thickest, hottest, most mouth-watering cosmopolitan stew. The littler nations cut very little ice while the great big world keeps turning; the bigger heads in the little nations shake themselves off their necks at us puffed-up frogs. I recall a master at school who, with a weary smile, showed us the smudge on the globe that is known as Ireland; had his teaching been better we’d have pulled his pointer to Greece. [...] Our masters in the school of letters keep their pointers at the smudge; their left hands fondle the continents and seas; and their smiles remain fixedly weary as we babble of green fields. Scouters and doubters will have it that, in this small island, we are much too meagre in minds, in money and in men to hoist a bulk of writing stamped as our own. To this contention Higgins is a hostile witness; if they read him with attention he will give them the lie; of what made his verse, or the differentia of his verse, barely a tithe came from anywhere but Ireland.’ (p.132). ‘We share Ireland and the Irish poetic tradition among us; and most are unlikely to forget that it is good. It is my hope that this short book will make clear, in some degreee, in what that tradition consists, and what labours of restoration and innovation have given it to us. May our labours, under God, continue it, strengthen it, and pass it on to the poets who come after us.’ (Course of Irish Verse, NY: Sheed & Ward 1947, p.169 [END].

[ top ]

Donagh MacDonagh, ed. & intro., Poems From Ireland (Dublin The Irish Times 1944), contains poems and a short biography.

Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988), ed. St. Patrick’s Training College and UCC; teacher in Dublin till becoming Radio Eireann talks officer, 1939; features officer, 1943; deputy dir., 1947, and Controller, 1953; English works all published under Robert Farren; Poetry includes Rime, Gentlemen, Please (1945); Verse plays, The Convention of Druim Ceat, and Lost Light (performed Abbey 1943); formed Dublin Verse-Speaking Soc., later Irish Lyric Theatre, with Austin Clarke, producing verse plays at Abbey, and Peacock Theatres, and Radio Eireann.

Hyland Books (Cat. 214) lists Thronging Feet (US ed. 1936), with intro. by Daniel Corkery; This Man Was Ireland, A Poem (NY 1943); The First Exile, A Poem [first European ed. of former title] (1944); The Course of Irish Verse (1948).

University of Ulster Central Library holds The Course of Irish Verse in English (Sheed & Ward 1948); An Appreciation of Poetry (1947).

[ top ]

1916 Commemoration: The Abbey theatre commemorated the 1916 Rising in 1949 with three one-act plays including Lady Gregory’s Dervorgilla and The Rising of the Moon, and Lost Light by Roibeard Ó Faracháin [given as O Tarachain], a verse documentary on the conflict between the heritage of insurrectionary separatism and the forced growth of Unionist loyalty to an Irish middle-class family circa 1916. (See The Irish Times, Tues. April 19, 1949; rep. in The Irish Times, 12 Sept. 2009 [suppl].)