James Clarence Mangan: Commentary


Commentary

John Mitchel
R. D’Alton Williams
W. B. Yeats
Douglas Hyde
Louise Guiney
Lionel Johnson
James Joyce
A. P. Graves
Francis MacManus
Marvin Magalaner
Rudi Holzapfel
Patrick Kavanagh
Thomas Kinsella
Joep. Th. Leerssen
David Lloyd
Seamus Deane
Robert Welch
Michael Cronin
Gerald Mangan
John Montague

Peter MacMahon, ‘An Exegesis of “My Dark Rosaleen”’ (MA Thesis, Oxon. 1978): [Patrick] Pearse: Pearse thought Mangan’s “My Dark Rosaleen” inferior to the Irish-language original, the latter being “a finer poem than Mangan’s, having more of the wine of poetry and less of the froth of rhetoric”’ [Songs of Irish Rebels and Specimens from an Irish Anthology, Dublin: Maunsel 1918, p.25]. Ernest A. Boyd, by contrast, considered Mangan’s finer [than James Furlong’s] because it “comes nearer to the conception of the Gaelic poet, and becomes at the same time an original creation” [Ireland’s Literary Renaissance, Dublin: Maunsel 1916, p.18].’ (Quoted in Aine Mellon, UG Diss., UUC 2006.)

Derek Mahon, ‘The Participating Eye’, foreword to John Minihan, An Unweaving of Rainbows: Images of Irish Writers (Souvenir Press 1998): ‘[...] we had no inspired innovator to capture Mangan, say, as Félix Nadar and others captured Baudelaire - though, in The Mangan Inheritance (1979), the novelist Brian Moore tries to rectify this omission by having his protagonist James Mangan, a young journalist, find a fictitious daguerreotype of an ancestor, the poet James Clarence Mangan, in a house in Canada - “a portrait in a scrolled brass frame preserved under glass, a small, shimmering, mirror-bright picture on silver-coated copperplate. It measured about three inches by four and showed a man facing the camera, a head-and-shoulders portrait taken against a plain background. The man wore a silk cravat, a white shirt, and a dark cape tied loosely about his neck by two broad tapes. His longish hair fell to his shoulders and his slight uncertain smile revealed a missing upper tooth. What made Mangan stare as though transfixed by a vision was that the face in the photograph was his own. He turned the daguerreotype over. On the back of the frame, written in a sloping looped script in the top right-hand corner, was the notation: (J.M., 1847?).”’ (Mahon, op. cit., p.5.)

[ top ]

John Mitchel, Introduction to Poems of James Clarence Mangan [NY 1859; rep. as Centenary Edn.] (Dublin: Gill 1903; rep. 1922): ‘For this Mangan was not only an Irishman, not only an Irish papist, not only an Irish papist rebel, but throughout his whole literary life of twenty years he never deigned to attorn to English criticism, never published a line in any English periodical, or through any English bookseller, never seemed to be aware that there was a British public to please. He was a rebel politically, [101] and a rebel intellectually and spiritually a rebel with his whole heart and soul against the whole British spirit of the age.’ (p.xxvii; quoted in M. J. MacManus, Adventures of an Irish Bookman, p.139.)

‘James Clarence Mangan, His Life, Poetry, and Death’, in Poems by James Clarence Mangan; with biographical introduction by John Mitchel (NY: D. & J. Sadlier 1866), pp.7-31 [being identical to the Haverty edn. of 1859 and later edns. from other publishers] - some extracts.
 

‘[...] I have undertaken also to give some account of his life; or rather of his two lives: for never was a creature on this earth whose existence was so entirely dual and double; nay, whose two lives were so hopelessly and eternally at war, racking and desolating the poor mortal frame which was the battle-ground of that fearful strife. Yet I ask myself, What would Mangan think and feel now, if he could know that a man was going to write his life? Would be not rise up from his low grave in Glasnevin to forbid? Be still, poor ghost! Gently and reverently, and with shoes from off my feet, I will tread the sacred ground.’ (p.9.)
 [...]
 ‘Not by any means desiring to obtrude an obscure parvenu amongst that crowd of immortals, nor intending to pluck one leave of ivy from the brow of a Mackay or a Smith, or a laurel from the chaplet of the bard who sings “Riflemen, Form!” [viz., Tennyson] - not deigning [7] to dispute about tastes, or to importune a cultivated public which has its hands and head already too full, and labours only under an embarras de richesses, - I have yet undertaken, at the desire of a bold publisher, to introduce the almost unknown name and writings of James Clarence Mangan modestly and bashfully to American readers. And I am the more emboldened to this enterprise, in calling to mind with what eager admiration the few samples of his strange melodies which have found their way to the innumerable readers of this continent, were welcomed and rejoiced over. The comparative unacquaintance, also, of Americans with these poems may be readily accounted for, when we remember how completely British criticism gives the law throughout the literary domain of that semi-barbarous tongue in which I have now the honour to indite. For this Mangan was not only an Irishman - not only an Irish papist, - not only an Irish papist rebel; - but throughout his whole literary life of twenty years, he never deigned to attorn to English criticism, never published a line in any English periodical, or through any English bookseller, never seemed to be aware that there was a British public to please. He was a rebel, politically, and a rebel intellectually and spiritually, - a rebel with his whole heart and soul against the whole British spirit of the age. The consequence was sure, and not unexpected. Hardly anybody in England knew the name of such a person; and the only critique of his volumes called “German Anthology” which I have ever met with, is a very short and contemptuous notice in the Foreign Quarterly, for October, 1845, wherein the austere critic declares Mr. Mangan’s method of rendering the German to be, “not gilding refined gold, but plating it with copper; not painting the lily white, but plastering it with red ochre.”
 Whereupon issue is joined. I respectfully appeal from English taste to American. In the eyes of Americans that can hardly be a great crime (though to an Englishman it is the sin against the Holy Ghost) - to ignore British opinion, and despise equally British censure and applause. Moreover I believe there is in these United States quite enough Celtic blood and warmth of temperament, enough to of the true Gaelic ear for melody, to recognize in the poems of Mangan that marvellous charm which makes him the household and heart-enshrined darling of many an Irish home. I have never yet met a cultivated Irish man or woman, of genuine Irish nature, who did not prize Clarence Mangan above all the poets that their island of song ever nursed.’ (p.7-8.)
[...]
 [F]or two or three years he gained his living and maintained his wretched household as an attorney’s clerk. The name of that particular member of the Society of the King’s Inns who doled out a few shillings a week to so remarkable a clerk, is not known to fame; and my researches upon this important point will be forever in vain.
 At what age he devoted himself to this drudgery, at what age he left it, or was discharged from it, does not appear; for his whole biography documents are wanting, the man having never for one moment imagined that his poor life could interest any surviving human being, and having never, accordingly, collected his biographical assets, and appointed a literary executor to take care of his posthumous fame. Neither did he ever acquire the habit, common enough among literary men, of dwelling upon his own early trials, struggles, and triumphs. But those who knew him in after years can remember with what a shuddering and loathing horror he spoke, when at rare intervals he could be induced to speak at all, of his labours with the scrivener and the attorney. He was shy and sensitive, with exquisite sensibility and fine impulses; eye, ear, and soul opened to all the beauty, music, and glory of heaven and earth; humble, gentle, and unexacting; modestly craving nothing in the world but celestial glorified life, seraphic love, and a throne among the immortal gods (that’s all), - and he was eight or ten years scribbling deeds, pleadings, and bills of chancery. Know all men by these presents, that it was “a very vile life,” if indeed his true life were spent there and so; but there was another, an inner and a higher life for him: in those years of quill driving, amongst gross and ill-conditioned fellow-clerks, whose naughty ways long after made him tremble to think of, that subtle spirit wandered and dwelt afar. this time he must have been a great devourer of books, and seems to have early devoted himself to the exploration of those treasures which lay locked up in foreign languages. Mangan had no education of a regular and approved sort; neither, in his multifarious reading had he, nor could brook any guidance whatever. Yet the reader of his poems will probably find in them ample proof of culture both high and wide, both profound and curiously exquisite. How he came by these acquirements; [10] by what devoted and passionate study, deep in the night, like the wrestle of Jacob with a god, this poor attorney’s clerk brought down the immortals to commune with him, is not recorded. he has not made provision, as was remarked before, for satisfying the laudable curiosity of the public on these points.
 Indeed, for some years after his labours had ceased in the attorney’s office, there is a gap in his life which pains-taking biography will never fill up. It is a vacuum and obscure gulf which no eye hath fathomed or measured; into which he entered a bright-haired youth and emerged a withered and stricken man. Mangan, when the present writer saw him first, was a spare and meagre figure, somewhat under middle height, with a finely-formed head, clear blue eyes, and features of peculiar delicacy. His face was pallid and worn, and the light hair seemed not so much grizzled as bleached. From several obscure indications in his poems, it is plain that in one at least of the great branches of education he had run through his curriculum regularly; he had loved, and was deceived. The instructress in this department of knowledge was a certain fair and false “ Frances ”; at least, such is the name under which he addressed to her one of his dreariest songs of sorrow. In that obscure, unrecorded interval of his life, he seems to have some time or other, by a rare accident, penetrated (like Diogenes Teufelsdrochk) into a sphere of life higher and more refined than any which his poor lot had before revealed to him; and even to have dwelt therein for certain days. Dubiously and with difficulty, I collect from those who were his intimates many years, thus much. He was on terms of visiting in a house where were three sisters; one of them beautiful, spirituelle, and a coquette. The old story was here once more re-enacted in due order. Paradise opened before him: the imaginative and passionate soul of the devoted boy bended in homage before an enchantress. She received it, was pleased with it, even encouraged and stimulated it, by various arts known to that class of persons, until she was fully and proudly conscious of her absolute power over one other noble and gifted nature - until she knew that she was the centre of the whole orbit of his being, and the light of his life: - then with a cold surprise, as wondering that he could be guilty of such a foolish presumption, she exercised her undoubted prerogative and whistled him down the wind. His air-paradise was suddenly darkness and a chaos.
 Well, it was a needful part of his education: if his Frances had not done him this service, some other as fair and cruel most undoubtedly would. She was but the accidental instrument and occasion of giving him that one fundamental lesson of a poet’s [11] life, une grande passion. As a beautiful dream she entered into his existence once for all; as a tone of celestial music she pitched the key-note of his song; and, sweeping over all the chords of his melodious desolation you may see that white hand. Let us bid her farewell, then, not altogether in unkindness; for she was more than half the Mangan. [sic.]
 He never loved, and hardly looked upon any woman forever more. [...]’. (pp.11-12.)
 The first time the present biography saw Clarence Mangan, it was in this wise - Being in the college library, and having occasion for a book in that gloomy apartment of the institution called the “Fagel Library”, which is the innermost recess of the stately building, an acquaintance pointed out to me a man perched on the top of a ladder, with the whispered information that the figure was Clarence Mangan. It was an unearthly and ghostly figure, in a brown garment; the same garment (to all appearance) which lasted till the day of his death. The blanched hair was totally unkempt; the corpse-like features still as marble; a large book was in his arms, and all his soul was in the book. I had never heard of Clarence Mangan before, and knew not for what he was celebrated; whether as a magician, a poet, or a murderer; yet took a volume and spread it on a table, not to read, but with pretence of reading to gaze on the spectral creature upon the ladder. [13]
 Here Mangan laboured mechanically, and dreamed, roosting on a ladder, for certain months, perhaps years; carrying the proceeds in money to his mother’s poor home, storing the proceeds which were not in money, but in another kind of ore, which might feed the imagination indeed, but was not available for board and lodging. All this time he was the bond-slave of opium.
 And now it almost repents me that I undertook to narrate the events of this man’s outer and visible life, even to gratify the interest which his loving, worshipping readers cannot but feel in all that concerns him - an interest, however, which is deeper and higher than merely curiosity. No purer and more benignant spirit ever alighted upon earth - no more abandoned wretch ever found earth a purgatory and a hell. There were, as I have said, two Mangans: one well know to the Muses, the other to the police; one soared through the empyrean and sought the stars - the other lay too often in gutters in Peter-street and Bride-street. I have read the lives and sufferings of Edgar Poe and of Richard Savage. Neither was so consummate a poet, neither so miserable a mortal. Yet in one respect poor Mangan compares favorably with them both; he had no malignity, sought no revenge, never wrought sorrow or suffering to any human but himself [...]. (p.14.)

 
Note

The identity of the young woman who rejected Mangan remains conjectural: at least, Mitchel’s assurance that it was Frances, drawn from a poem “To Frances”, is challenged by the memories of others who consider that her sister Margaret Stacpoole was the person in question. In her edition of the Selected Poems (1897), Louise Imogen Guiney writes that Mangan was not so hurt by the event that he did not introduce his friends to the Stacpoole family afterwards. (Poems, NY Edn., 1897, p.16) - but does reiterate the notion that ‘no fair face ever appealed to him after’ (ibid. p.17).
  Notwithstanding this, Mitchel’s account of the jilting of Mangan by one Frances offers a slender element of comparison with Joyce’s story of the boy who is similarly faced with disillusion in the Dubliners story “Araby”. Indeed, Joyce must have read Mitchel’s introduction while preparing his own paper on James Clarence Mangan for the L&H at the Royal University in 1899.
 Mitchel’s style is that of Thomas Carlyle as witnessed, in some degree, by his allusion to Teufelsdrochk (viz., Sartor Resartus) - supra. W. B. Yeats was repetitive in his condemnation of the Young Irelanders - especially Mitchel - for their absorption of Carlyle’s rhetorical manner - notwithstanding the fact that Carlyle was a strenuous hater of the Irish, as many of his essay show.
 Note, too that, Guiney refers to Mitchel’s ‘Carlyle-like pen’ - quoting thereafter Mitchel’s famous account of his first sighting of Mangan as toploftical - viz., ‘Selber’s toploftical disdain of human applause is the only great thing about him, except his cloak.’ (Op. cit., 1897, p.56; Mitchel, Intro., p.20.)

 
—See full text copy of 1866 Edn. at NYPL made by Haithi Trust online; accessed 03.03.2011.

John Mitchel: ‘[F]or his history and fate were indeed a type and shadow of the land he loved so well. The very soul of his melody is that plaintive and passionate yearning which breathes and throbs through all the music of Ireland. Like Ireland’s his gaze was ever backward, with vain and feeble complaint for vanished years. Like Ireland’s, his light flickered upwards for a moment, and went out in the blackness and darkness.’ (Ibid., p.xxxvii; quoted in Patrick Ward, ‘Holy Ireland: Constructions, Omissions, Evasions, Resistance’, in Exile, Emigration and Irish Writing, Dublin IAP 2002, pp.101-02.)

John Mitchel, ‘Quarto Volume of Critical Notes [...] for John O’Daly’ [otherwise NLI MS 5454]: ‘No purer and more benignant spirit ever alighted upon earth - no more abandoned wretch ever found earth a purgatory and a hell.’ (Mitchel, op. cit., p.xxxv; quoted in Ellen Shannon-Mangan, Life of Mangan, 1996, p.302.)

John Mitchel: Mitchel once saw Mangan ‘perched upon the top of a ladder’ in the TCD library: ‘It was an unearthly and ghostly figure in a brown garment: the same garment, to all appearance, which lasted till the day of his death; the blanched hair was totally unkempt, the corpse-like features still as marble; a large book was in his arms, and all his soul was in the book. / I had never heard of Clarence Mangan before, and know not for what he was celebrated, whether as a magician, a poet, or a murderer: yet I took a volume and spread it on the table, not to read, but, with the pretence of reading, to gaze on the spectral person upon the ladder.’ (Quoted in M. J. MacManus, op. cit, 139; also in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.294.)

[ top ]

Richard D’Alton Williams, “Lament for James Clarence Mangan”, in Poems ed. P. A. Sillard, Dublin: Duffy 1894, p.15-21):

 

Yes! happy friend, the cross was thine; ’tis o’er a sea of tears
Predestined souls must ever sail to reach their native spheres.
May Christ, the crowned of Calvary, who died upon a tree,
Bequeath His tearful chalice and His bitter cross to me.

The darkened land is desolate - a wilderness of graves -
Our purest hearts are prison-bound, our exiles on the waves;
Gaunt Famine stalks the blasted plains - the pestilential air
O’erhangs the gasp of breaking hearts or stillness of despair. [p.15]

[...]

If any shade of earthliness bedimmed thy spirit’s wings,
Well cleansed thou art in sorrow’s ever-salutary springs;
And even bitter suffering, and still more bitter sin,
Shall only make a soul like thine more beautiful within.

For every wound that humbles, if it do not all destroy,
Shall nerve the heart for nobler deeds, and fit for purer joy;
As the demigod of fable-land, as olden legends say,
Rose up more strong and valorous each time he touched the clay.

[...]

Sleep, happy friend! The cross was thine - tis o’er a sea of tears
Predestined souls must ever sail to reach their native spheres.
May Christ, the crowned of Calvary, who died upon a tree,
Vouchsafe His tearful chalice and His bitter cross to me! [p.21; end.]

   
 
—See full version under Richard D'Alton Williams - as attached.

Further: ‘Thou wert a voice of God on earth - of those prophetic souls / Who hear the fearful thunder in the Future’s womb that rolls.’ (Quoted in Margaret Kelleher, ‘Irish Famine in Literature’, The Great Irish Famine, ed. Cáthal Portéir [Thomas Davis Lectures Series], RTÉ / Mercier, 1995, p.239; and see these lines in Poems, ed. Sillard, 1894, p.17 - online.)

[ top ]

W. B. Yeats: Yeats called Mangan ‘that strange visionary, ruined by drink and narcotics, who wrote some half-dozen lyrics of indescribable beauty.’ (The Bookman, July 1895, p.106; cf. also Irish Fireside, March 1887; cited in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, n., p.199.) Note also Yeats’s comment: ‘Pages there are abundantly wearying and hollow [but sometimes] from beneath the pen of this haunted (for so he believed) and prematurely aged man, the words flowed like electric flashes’, quoted in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976), p.13.

[ top ]

W. B. Yeats: ‘His [Davis’s] contemporary, Clarence Mangan, kept out of public life and its half-illusions by a passion for books, and for drink and opium, made an imaginative and powerful style. He translated from the German, and imitated Oriental poetry, but little that he did on any but Irish subjects has a lasting interest. he is usually classed with the Young Ireland poets, because he contributed to their periodicals and shared their political views; but his style was formed before their movement began, and he found it the more easy for this reason, perhaps, to give sincere expression to the mood which he had chosen, the only sincerity literature knows of; and with happiness and cultivation might have displaced Moore. But as it was, whenever he had no fine ancient song to inspire him, he fell into rhetoric which was only lifted out of commonplace by an arid intensity. In his ‘Irish National Hymn,’ ‘Soul and Country,’ and the like, we look into a mind full of parched sands where the sweet dews have never fallen. A miserable [viii] man may think well and express himself with great vehemence, but he cannot make beautiful things, for Aphrodite never rises from any but a tide of joy. Mangan knew, nothing of the happiness of the outer man, and it was only when prolonging the tragic exultation of some dead bard that he knew the unearthly happiness which clouds the outer man with sorrow, and is the fountain of impassioned art. Like those who had gone before him, he was the slave of life, for he had nothing of the self-knowledge, the power of selection, the harmony of mind, which enables the poet to be its master, and to mold the world to a trumpet for his lips. But O’Hussey’s Ode over his outcast chief must live for generations because of the passion that moves through its powerful images and its mournful, wayward, and fierce rhythms. / ‘Though he were even a wolf ranging the round green woods, / Though he were even a pleasant salmon in the untamable sea, / Though he were a wild mountain eagle, he could scarce bear, he, / This sharp, sore sleet, these howling floods.’ (‘Modern Irish Poetry’, in Irish Literature, gen ed. Justin McCarthy, 1904, Vol. III, pp.vii-xiii; pp.viii-ix; prev. as ‘Modern Irish Poetry’, Intro. to A Book of Irish Verse: Selected from Modern Writers with an Introduction, London: Methuen 1895 [edns. in 1900, 1912, 1920 [4th].)

[ top ]

Douglas Hyde, reflecting on Mangan’s limited knowledge if Irish, wrote: ‘it was his custom to stretch his body halfway across the counter, while John [O’Daly] would translate the Irish song to him and [he] would versify it [...]’ (Quoted in John Montague, ‘Monuments to Mangan’, in The Irish Times, 26 April 2003, infra.)

[ top ]

Louise Imogen Guiney, ‘James Clarence Mangan: a Study’, in James Clarence Mangan, His Selected Poems, with a Study by the Editor (Boston: Lamson, Wolffe & Co. 1897), pp.3-112: ‘[...] Like all Irishmen, Mangan was by nature something of a commentator on public affairs. Many were the squibs and epigrams from his boyish pen; and in The Belfast Vindicator he had all the fun he could out of the eternal English misrule. His highest powers, however, refused to be pressed into service, as the angelic standard-bearers of a cause. Instead of singing The Nation’s First Number (one knows not what he could have done, with such a lowflying materialistic title as that!), he heartily shouted it. The Irish National Hymn has emotion and dignity; A Highway for Freedom is a good song of its kind. But there are a dozen kindred themes from Mangan’s pen which nobody of frail endurance would wish to read twice. There is opulent speechifying, but little poetry, in The Warning Voice, The Peal of Another Trumpet (with its motto “Irlande, Irlande, réjouis-toi” from the prophecies of Mademoiselle Lenormand), and in the one strain typical of all, The Voice of Encouragement: A New Year’s Lay.’ (p.42.) [Cont.]

Louise Imogen Guiney, (‘James Clarence Mangan: a Study’, 1897), - cont.: ‘[...] Nevertheless, Young Ireland must have found him a most useless person. His known genius and admired achievements floated him over these years of profound stress, when he produced next to nothing of any worth; and when his always gently-remote bearing must have had the value of an anachronism. Fortunately, there were those near at hand to supplant him, the instant he failed. It is not from Mangan that we have Who Fears to Speak of ’Ninety-Eight, and The Rapparees. Best of all, there was Thomas Osborne Davis, a patrician tribune, a most lovable and very perfect character, who made rhymes only as a means to an end, yet out-reached any rival whomsoever in that direction, as in others. With such splendid popular ballads of his as Fontenoy, The Sack of Baltimore, Owen Roe, O’Brien of Ara, nothing of Mangan (least of all The Siege of Maynooth) can compete. Besides, unlike Davis, or his nearest followers, clear-headed young enthusiasts of culture and breeding, Clarence Mangan had no very definite idea of what was the desirable thing to say. While in aiming at the Repeal of the Act of Union, they were content to arouse a manly spirit in the long-oppressed peasantry, by dwelling on the antique glories of the isle and the names of her romantic heroes, nothing would serve Mangan, the one anointed poet among them, but prophecy, calamitous preaching, and the most prosy insistence on concrete agitation. Worse yet, he was inconsistent: his theories veered and wobbled. He begets generalities Continental in application.’ (p.44-45.) [Cont.]

[ top ]

Louise Imogen Guiney, (‘James Clarence Mangan: a Study’, 1897), cont. - quotes: “Your swords, your guns, alone can give / To Freedom’s course a highway”, and remarks: ‘Surely, no more drastic urging ever came from Mangan’s colleague, the young Speranza (Miss Elgee, afterwards Lady Wilde), in the famous Jacta Alea Est. Whether the mood of patience, or that of indignation, at given times, were best for Ireland, is a question apart; what is certain, is that the man who would encourage her simultaneously in both, cancels his value as a public personage, and may well, on the whole, “go back to his gallipots.”’ (pp.45-46.)

Note: Guiney offers severe strictures on Mangan’s laxer poetry and comical use of rhythms and rhymes - comparing him ironically to Gilbert and Sullivan - but also supplied a step-by-step account of the building-up of the final version of “My Dark Rosaleen” from two previous attempts based on the translation-materials supplied to him from Eugene O’Curry’s translation of Aodh Ó Domhnaill’s 17th century original. (See Guiney, op. cit., attached.)

Louise Imogen Guiney (‘James Clarence Mangan: a Study’, 1897), cont. - compares his Gaelic translations closely with Ferguson’s and examines the Anthologia Germanica in the light of the originals, leading the to conclusion: ‘The truth is, Clarence Mangan is no translator at all [...] As it was, Mangan wasted on the dreams of anybody else the time he was forbidden to devote to the inspirations of his own brain. [...] The things he accomplished in literature have the look of accidents and commentaries, as he wished; the pride of his whole shadowed career was to figure in a mask unworthy of him. In such a spirit of evasion he took to his inexplicable trade of translating: accepting a suggestion, and scornfully elaborating it, or ironically referring to the gardens of Ispahan his own roses, who color seemed too startling for the banks of the Liffey.’ (p.88-89.) [Cont.]

Louise Imogen Guiney, ‘James Clarence Mangan: a Study’, 1897) - cont.: ‘His obliging labor of transposing the Welsh, Danish, Frisian, Swedish, Russian, and Bohemian (for he solemnly pretends to deal in all of these) is pure blague.’ (p.90; ...] ‘He declared continually that his “translations “were not rigidly exact, or he refused altogether to gratify the curiosity of his audience [...] And all the time he is enriching them and cheating himself, adorning the annals of reversed forgery, and cutting off from the circulation of his mother-tongue some of its most original accents.’ (p.93.) Further: ‘Out of his imagination his “rich Bagdad” never existed; though it be cherished there as only the solitary and disregarded intelligence can cherish its ideal, he is lord of it yet, and can bid it vanish, at one imperious gesture of relinquishment. Down tumbles Bagdad! The crash thereof is in the public ears; and who will refuse to believe that there was a Clarence Mangan who knew something of the blessed Orient, something, too, of felicity, even though it passed?’ [For full text version, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Monographs”, via index or as attached.]

[ top ]

Lionel Johnson, Prefatory Essay to Prose Writings of James Clarence Mangan, ed. D. J. O’Donoghue (Dublin & London 1904): ‘The radiance of his “Dark Rosaleen”, its adoring, flashing, flying, laughing rapture of patriotic passion. It is among the great lyrics of the world, one of the fairest and fiercest in its perfection of imagery and rhythm ..’; he spent much time on translation but his finest work is ‘in its mrvellous moments of entire success, greater than anything that Ireland has yet produced in English verse, from Goldsmith to Mr. Yeats.’ (pp.xiii, xiv.)

[ top ]

James Joyce [1]: “James Clarence Mangan” [Dublin 1902], rep. in Critical Writings (NY: Viking Press 1966): ‘[...] Mangan, it must be remembered, wrote with no native literary tradition to guide him and for a public which cared for matters of the day, and for poetry only so far as it might illustrate these’ [...] ‘Though even in the best of Mangan the presence of alien emotions is sometimes felt the presence of an imaginative personality reflecting the light of imaginative beauty is more vividly felt. East and West meet in that personality(we know how); images interweave [their] soft, luminous scarves and words ring like brilliant mail, and whether the song is of Ireland or of Istambol it has the same refrain, a prayer that peace may come again to her who has lost peace, the moonwhite pearl of his soul, Ameen.’ (p.78.) Further: ‘[A]ll his poetry remembers wrong and suffering and the aspiration of one who has suffered and who is moved to great cries and gestures when that sorrowful hour rushes upon the heart.’ (Ibid., p.80.)

Note: Joyce composed two lecture-essays on Mangan, the first delivered at the L&H of the Royal University [University College], Dublin, on 1 Feb. 1902 and the second in Trieste during 1907 - both rep. in Critical Writings, 1959 and the former substantially copied in Stephen Hero. See further under Joyce, Quotations, supra.)

[ top ]

James Joyce [2], review of Stephen Gwynn, Today and To-morrow, in Daily Express (29 Jan. 1903), criticises Gwynn’s conception that the writes ‘Mr. Gwynn has evidently a sympathy with modern Irish writers, but his criticism of their work is in no way remarkable. In the opening essay he has somehow the air of discovering Mangan, and he transcribes with some astonishment a few verses from “O’Hussey’s Ode to the Maguire”. Few as the verses are, they are enough to show the real value of the work of the modern writers, whom Mr. Gwynn regards as the voice of Celticism proper. Their work varies in merit, never rising (except in Mr. Yeats’s case) above a certain fluency and an occasional distinction, and often falling so low that it has a value only as documentary evidence. It is work which has an interest of the day, but collectively it has not a third part of the value of the work of a man like Mangan, that creature of lightning, who has been, and is, a stranger among the people he ennobled, but who may yet come [sic; ?to be recognised] by his own as one of the greatest romantic poets among those who use the lyrical form.’ (Critical Writings, ed. Ellsworth Mason & Richard Ellmann, NY: Viking Press 1966, p.91.)

[ top ]

James Joyce [3]: “James Clarence Mangan” (Trieste 1907): ‘[Poetry ...] speaks of that which seems unreal and fantastic to those who have lost the simple intuitions which are the tests of reality. Poetry considers many of the idols of the market place unimportant - the succession of the ages, the spirit of the age, the mission of the race. The poet’s central effort is to free himself from the unfortunate influence of these idols that corrupt him from without and within, and certainly it would be false to assert that Mangan has always made this effort. The history of his country encloses him so straitly that even in his hours of extreme individual passion he can barely reduce its walls to ruins. He cries out in his life and in his mournful verses against the injustice of despoilers, but almost never laments a loss greater than that of buckles and banners. He inherits the latest and worst part of a tradition upon which no divine hand has ever traced a boundary, a tradition which is loosened and divided against itself as it moves down the cycles. And precisely because this tradition has become an obsession with him, he has accepted it with all its regrets and failures and would pass it on just as it is. The poet who hurls his lightning against tyrants would establish upon the future an intimate and crueller tyranny. The figure that he adores has the appearance of an abject queen to whom, because of the bloody crimes that she has committed and the no less bloody crimes committed against her by the hands of others, madness has come and death is about to come, but who does not wish to believe that she is about to die, and [185] remembers only the rumour of voices that besiege her sacred garden and her lovely flowers that have become pabulum aprorum, food for wild boars. Love of grief, despair, high-sounding threats - these are the great traditions of the race of James Clarence Mangan, and in that impoverished figure, thin and weakened, an hysterical nationalism receives its final justification.’ (Critical Writings, 1965, pp.185-86.) Joyce also calls him ‘the prototype of a nation manqué’ and argues that ‘one who has expressed in a worthy form the sacred indignation of his soul cannot have written his name in water.’ (Critical Writings, 1966, p.186.)

Further: ‘When he [Mangan] died, his miserable body made the attendants shudder [...] So lived and died the man I consider the most significant poet of the modern Celtic world.’ (Critical Writings [q.p.]; quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.293.) [See also Marvin Magalaner & Richard Kain, James Joyce: The Man, The Works, The Reputation (1957), as infra.]

[ top ]

James Joyce - III: Stephen Hero (publ. 1944) - writing in 1906 and echoing his lecture of 1902: ‘Mangan has been a stranger to his country, a rare and unsympathetic figure in the streets, where he is seem going forward alone like one who does penance for some ancient sin. Surely life, which Novalis has called a malady of the spirit, is a heavy penance for him who has, perhaps, forgotten the sin that laid it upon him [...] His sufferings have cast him inward, where for some ages the sad and the wise have elected to be[.]’ (q.p.)

James Joyce - IV: Eugene Sheehy writes of Joyce, ‘Except for Ibsen and Dante, the only other authorwhom he favoured was James Clarence Mangan; and I remember the intense pleasure with which all those assembled one night in my father’s house heard him recite “The Nameless One” by the hapless Irish poet.’ (Sheehy [memoir], in Ulick O’Connor, ed., The Joyce We Knew, Mercier Press 1967, p.33.)

[ top ]

A. P. Graves, Irish Literary & Musical Studies (London: London: Elkin Mathews 1913): ’The Irish famine, whose horrors are reflected in his [Mangan’s] “New Year’s Lay”, profoundly affected his imagination [...] Mangan in temporary cholera shed in Kilmainham [...] collapsed [on release and was] removed from [a] wretched cellar in Bride St. and died after seven days in Meath Hospital.’ (q.p.)

Francis MacManus, Adventures of an Irish Bookman, ed., M. J. MacManus (Dublin: Talbot Press 1952), [Chap.] ‘Man in the Cloak’, pp.137-41; MacManus quotes descriptions of Mangan from John Mitchel, Joohn Savage, John O’Daly, C. P. Meehan, W. K. Wakeman, and Louise Imogen Guiney.

[ top ]

Marvin Magalaner, in Magalaner & Richard M. Kain, James Joyce: The Man, The Works, The Reputation [1956] (London; John Calder 1957) - “The Biographical Problem” [being Chap. 2] : ‘I should like to develop here, in some detail, only one such literary-autobiographical borrowing - Joyce’s almost certain debt to the nineteenth-century Irish poet, James Clarence Mangan. [Ftrn. ref. to Magalaner, James Mangan and Joyce’s Dedalus Family,’ in Philological Quarterly, XXXI (Oct. 1952), pp.363-71] Joyce contributed an essay on Mangan to the undergraduate literary review in 1902. In it, referring evidently to Mangan’s recently published autobiographical fragments, Joyce tells how: “In a moment of frenzy he [Mangan] breaks silence, and we read how his associates dishonoured his person with their slime and venom, and how he lived as a child amid coarseness and misery and that all whom he met were demons out of the pit and that his father was a human boaconstrictor ...” [“James Clarence Mangan”, in St. Stephen’s (Univ. College, Dublin), May 1902.] / The fact that Joyce mentions the figure of the boa constrictor, taken directly from the poet’s account of his life and found in none of the contemporary reviews or biographies, is strong evidence that the young novelist had seen Mangan’s Fragment of an Unfinished Autobiography. [‘Fragment of an Unfinished Autobiography’, in The Poets and Poetry of Munster, 5th edn., Dublin: James Duffy, n.d.]. Since Mangan was one of Joyce’s few heroes at this time, it is more than reasonable to suppose that he would have read the book when it was published, sold, and discussed in Dublin. It is also safe to assume that the young artist who, in 1902, was examining his own memories of childhood, preparatory to writing Stephen Hero and the later works, must have been startled by what he found in Mangan’s book. For the picture of himself that Mangan paints is the picture of several of Joyce’s autobiographical heroes and of young Joyce himself.’ Malaganer argues at greater length that the romantic persona of Stephen and his relationship with his father are borrowed from Mangan’s own account: ‘Thus, Mangan’s preoccupation with romantic isolation and retreat to a dream world plays a large part in A Portrait of the Artist [...] It is impossible to know how much of Stephen Dedalus would have been differently presented if Mangan’s autobiography had not caught Joyce’s attention. Consequently, for those biographical commentators who insist upon too close identification of Stephen with Joyce, the risk of distortion and misrepresentation is considerable.’ (p.30.)

[ top ]

Patrick Kavanagh, ‘Nationalism and Literature’, in Collected Pruse (1967): ‘I suppose that judged in the cruel light of top-class literary criticism, a poet like Mangan comes out pretty badly. But to those [203] involved with the local sentiment Mangan made a profound appeal. At one time Mangan immensely moved me with I walked entranced: “Through a land of morn / The sun with wondrous excess of light / Shone down and glanced / O’er fields of corn / And lustrous gardens aleft and right / Even in the clime of resplendent Spain / Beams no such sun upon such a land / But it was the time / ’Twas in the reign / Of Cahal Mor of the Wine-Red hand.” I almost begin to believe in the myth of Ireland as a spiritual reality.’ (Rep. in Mark Storey, ed., Poetry and Ireland since 1800: A Source Book, London: Routledge 1988, pp.200-204 [extract]; pp.203-04.)

[ top ]

Rudi Patrick Holzapfel: ‘Neither of these sympathetic and substantial poets [Moore and Ferguson] can be called, as mangan can, a true inheritor of the spiritual legacy of the Gaelic Bards. Neither of them was more intrinsically Irish nor more tragically coupled with the fate of his nation; neither gave us, nor could they ever have given us, the resounding brilliance of Mangan’s “My Dark Rosaleen”, more than any other [a] national poem [...] Read it is not about Ireland. It is Ireland.’ (James Clarence Mangan: A Checklist, of printed and other sources, Dublin: Sceptre 1969, p.9; quoted in Peter MacMahon, ‘An Exegesis of “My Dark Rosaleen”’ [MA Thesis, Oxon., 1978]; cited in Aine Mellon, UG Diss., UUC 2006.)

[ top ]

Thomas Kinsella, ‘The Divided Mind’, in Irish Poets in English, ed. Sean Lucy (Cork: Mercier Press 1973): ‘From Mangan ... for the first time we are in touch with real poetry, in which from time to time the profoundest personal depths are sounded in an investigation of liffe, and in which language itself comes to life. Yet there are scarcely half a dozen poems that don’t ask us to make allowances ... remains of a squandered future, a ‘genius wasted’, as Mangan himself confesses in “The Nameless One”.’ (p.212.)

Note: Kinsella’s piece was first published as ‘The Irish Writer’, in Eire-Ireland, 2, 2 (Summer 1967), and afterwards as Kinsella & W. B. Yeats, Davis, Mangan, Ferguson?: Tradition and the Irish Writer (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1970), 72pp. See also The Dual Tradition: An Essay on Poetry and Politics in Ireland [Peppercannister 18] (Carcanet 1995).

[ top ]

Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (John Benjamins Pub. Co., Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 1986), writes: ‘We need only think of ‘translation’ of [Eoghan Rua mac an Bhaird’s poem addressed to Nuala Ní Domhnaill[?], “An bhean fuair faill ar an bhfeart”, where she is depicted as a lonely mourner at the family tomb of the exiled O’Donnell’s in Rome [as “O, Woman of the Piercing Wail” by James Clarence Mangan] to realise how such poetry could alter be subjected to a national or even nationalistic reading.’ (p.220.)

[ top ]

David Lloyd, Nationalism and Minor Literature: James Clarence Mangan and the Emergence of Irish Cultural Nationalism (Berkeley: California UP 1987): ‘Devoted to the reunification of the people by the revitalisation of a hypothetical past unity, cultural or political, nationalism depends nonetheless on those forces that tend to [?deracinate] a people and that, by instigating an uneven process of modernisation, fragment those social structures which come to appear in retrospect as the expression of a coherent and unified national consciousness.’ (p.94; quoted in Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures, Cork UP 1996 - remarking that Lloyd points to Mangan’s translations for the Nation and concludes that translation ‘embod[ies] a duplicity that effects all nationalisms’; Cronin, p.116.)

[ top ]

Joep Leerssen, ‘Ireland and the Orient’, in Oriental Prospects: Western Literature and the Lure of the East, ed. C. C. Barfoot, Theo d’Haen (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi B.V. 1988), pp.161-74: ‘Mangan himself subscribes to this Irish-Orientalism parallelism - though he does so, as [David] Lloyd demonstrates [in Nationalism and Minor Literature: James Clarence Mangan and the Emergence of Irish Cultural Nationalism, 1987), not from a superciliously anglocentric point of view, but from the standpoint of the marginalized. In some rare instances the sens eof shared hegemonistic oppression linking Ireland to the oriental colonies becomes explicit, for example, in Mangan’s invective against John Bull who is apostrophized through an oriental persona as the Khafir Dzjaun Bool Djenkinson. In most other cases a parallel remains implicit. Mangan’s Siberia is a poem of icy death-in-life, comparable to the icy hallucinations of Coleridge in the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” or “Kubla Khan”; but Mangan’s “Siberia” is more, it is a place of political exile and oppression, and and in that respect Mangan’s orientalism differs from Coleridge’s reveries. Again, it is a telling fact that Mangan, who translated much poetry from the Gaelic, chose to phrase an Irish-Oriental parallelism: the Gaelic word for “head” is ceann; Mangan uses this (solecism though it be) in the sense “head of a family or tribe” and [168] thus can come to spell the Gaelic ceann as Khan. What is more, Mangan, a centry and a half before [Edward] Said, already denounced the fashionable sort of British couleur locale [in Orientalism, 1978], and argued the irreducibility of oriental culture to European exoticism. [...]   Yet at the same time there is a danger of overstating the uniqueness of Anglo-Irish orientalism, or of explaining it from Ireland’s political subjugation. There is no reliable basis on which to say that Mangans topos of “the fall of Oriental empires” (in poems like “The Time of the Barmecides” or “Gone in the Wind”) is distinct from sikilar musings in English romantic poetry - for instance, Shelley’s “Ozymandias” or The Revolt of Islam. / There is a tendency in nineteeth-century Anglo-Irish literature which I have called auto-exoticist: by that I mean a habit, in Anglo-Irish authors, of looking at their own country in terms of its strangeness, its foreignness. [...]" (See longer extract under Leerssen, supra.)

[ top ]

Seamus Deane, ‘Joyce the Irishman’, in Derek Attridge, ed., The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce (Cambridge UP 1990): ‘The most important of Joyce’s Irish predecessors was the poet James Clarence Mangan (1803-49), whose tragic and miserable existence was represented by Joyce as an emblem of the characteristic alienation of the true artist. More significantly, Joyce exaggerated the extent to which Mangan had been ignored by his countrymen after his death. For, as Joyce saw it, Mangan also represented the artist who was spurned by his countrymen in a typically treacherous fashion, largely because he had identified his own multifarious woes with those of his suffering country. [...] The most appealing and dangerously seductive form of solidarity in Irish conditions was that offered by Irish nationalism, in all its variant forms, from the United Irishmen of 1798 to the Young Ireland movement of the 1840s and the more recent Fenian and Home Rule movements. It was Mangan’s downfall as an artist that he could not free himself form the tragic [32] history of his nation. [Quotes: ‘The history of his country encloses him so straitly ... &c.’;] Mangan’s art is, therefore, caught in the toils of a political crisis from which he can never be freed until that crisis is resolved. [...T]his paradox leads to Joyce’s declaration that if Mangan is to achieve the posthumous recognition he deserves, it will be without the help of his countrymen [...] a carefully construed cautionary tale for the Irish artist who wished to elude the fickle acclaim of his treacherous countrymen. The portrait of Mangan is one of Joyce’s early fictions. It is his portrait fo the artist as a Young Ireland man.’ (pp.32-33.) Also speaks of ‘Mangan disguised as Joyce’ in respect of purported linguistic competence. (p.33.) ‘Although Joyce shared the general view that Mangan was a nationalist poet, he also recognised that the poetry would not be seen for what it truly was as long as the two imperialisms, [34] British and Roman Catholic, prevailed. [...] Like Mangan, he could find no alternative to imperialism and nationalism other than fierce repudiation.’ (pp.34-35.)

[ top ]

Robert Welch, ‘Language and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century’, in Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing (London: Routledge 1993) [Chap. 2]: ‘James Clarence Mangan, in whom Yeats had an interest for a time, sang in uncertainty. He emerged in the 1830s as a writer with manifold interests, and as one with special insight into extreme Romanticism, particularly that of Germany . There were {30} certain affinities between Ireland and Germany in the early nineteenth century which had to do with the fact that both cultures felt themselves to be under pressure from an imperial threat, in Germany’s case that of Napoleon. Mangan was attracted to Germanic nationalism, to the emotional power of the Stürm und Drang, and to the emphasis, in the poetry of Herder, Schiller, Goethe and Freiligarth, on spiritual essences. Translation attracted Mangan for all kinds of complex reasons, but mostly because it allowed him a “cloak” (he used to call himself the “Man in the Cloak” in the Comet and elsewhere) under which he could find a means of expression. / Indirection was temperamental. In Mangan there is a radical sense that self or identity is simply not there: in a long prose piece, “An Extraordinary Adventure in the Shades”, the theme revolves around the idea that it is impossible to speak to anyone because speech presupposes a self, and seeing as there is no such thing as a central self then there can be no direct approach, no open speech. The manifold identities that he saw translation offering was a way out of the difficulty. He translated extensively from German, French, Italian, but also (even though he did not know the languages) from Persian and from Irish. [.../] Perhaps Mangan’s best poem is the one where he confronts {31} directly his own fearfully acute sense of non-self and relates it directly to the state of being in Ireland itself. Things are bad, not just on an individual level, but on the level of collective society. There is no mode of signification, no speech; the reality is oppression, suffering, terrible silence and spiritual cold.’ (pp.30-32 [quotes “Siberia”; see under Quotations, infra.]

[ top ]

Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), cites Mangan on [John] Anster, where the former claims that the latter is ‘the real author of Faust’, and comments: ‘The “authorial” theory of translation that Mangan is proposing inverts conventional hierarchies of writer/translator, primary/secondary, original/derivative that inform received ideas on the translation process. The production of fake translations could be seen as the logical outcome of a radical version of the authorial theory. The translator is the real author of the text because there is no original. The translation is the original. The attractions of Mangan for post-structuralist critics are obvious, but his deconstructionist malleability should not obscure the historical significance of his treatment of the translator. As we saw in Chapter One, the medieval Irish translators were active shapers of the translated text, often adopting a highly interventionist practice and “authoring” sections of the translation as they saw fit. There is also the tradition of Stanihurst and Maginn, to name but two Irish translators in English. Therefore, Mangan is not so much creating a radical new translation practice as simply making explicit the active role of the translator that was already implicit in certain specific approaches to translation in Ireland. He is also emphasising the responsibility of the translator. If the translator is to assume authorial power, then abdication of responsibility for the final result (“I was only doing my job”), is no longer possible. Self-effacement has its own securities (or, more properly, insecurities).’ [Cont.]

Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996) - cont.: ‘The unwillingness to efface or erase the self draws the translator into another set of paradoxes. Robert Welch argues that for Mangan as Proteus (Mangan had so described himself), “the mask of translation” allowed the exercise of a plurality, a degree of objectivity “which freed him from the tremors of his private grief and agony”. (History of Verse Translation from the Irish, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988, p.111). The implication is that translation allows for the multiplication of selves, a costume drama in language. However, it could equally be argued that an authorial theory does not so much lead to a multiplication of selves as a multiplication of self. It is Mangan’s presence, not his absence, that is distinctly felt in his translations. It is the fact that they are unmistakably his translations that makes them so different from the translations of, say, Samuel Ferguson or James Hardiman. Just as Mangan baulks at the general notion of transparency in translation, so too is he resistant to a transparent self. It is the very opacity [123] of the translator that inflects the direction of the translation and ensures that no two translators will every translate a poem in exactly the same way. / Nations like individuals, can be seen as opaque ... [quotes David Lloyd: “it is only when those specificities of language that render it radically untranslatable come to be recognised that the problem of equivalence comes to the fore.’ (Lloyd, Nationalism and Minor Literature: James Clarence Mangan and the Emergence of Irish Cultural Nationalism, 1987, p.105; Cronin, pp.123-24).

[ top ]

Gerald Mangan, reviewing The Collected Works, Vol. I (1996), in Times Literary Supplement, 19 Sept. pp.7-8, remarks, ‘Mangan’s poetry does not immediately dispel the aura of wilful oddity that surrounds his personality; and there is much in it to mystify or even repel the reader who approaches it cold. The subject-matter drawn from Irish mythology can appear more impenetrable than the exotic décors of his many Middle Eastern-flavoured poems [...] and his imager is too often dominated by the stock Gothic properties of ruins, tombstones, abysses, thunderstorms and unattainable beauties. His metronomic rhythms can sound as quaint as his rather whimsical archaisms, and the dirge-like repetitions, complete with exclamation marks, contribute to the initial impression of a self-styled amateur tragedian, entranced by his own histrionics.’ (p.8.) Further, gives account of the system of pseudonyms, beginning with Clarence, and then including the more flippant ‘von Baugtrauter’, and ‘on Tutshemupp’, as well as ‘Drechsler’ and ‘Selbsers’ invented to sustain the fiction of translation or to disclose the barely-veiled fact of autograph writing, and asks whether the poet lacked the courage to sign his own name when a poem bared its soul too nakedly - quoting ‘My Trumpet and How I Blow It’, signed by “The Man in the Cloak”: ‘I am not a man in a cloak, but the Man in the Cloak. My personal identity is here at stake, and I cannot consent to sacrifice it. Let me sacrifice it, and what becomes of me? “The earth hath bubbles as the water hath”, and I am thenceforth one of them. I lose my cloak and my consciousness both in the twinkling pair of tongs; I become what the philosophy of Kant (in opposition to the Cant of philosophy) denominates a Nicht-ich, a Not-I, a Non-ego.’ [Cont.]

Gerald Mangan, reviewing The Collected Works, in TLS (19 Sept. 1996) - cont.: cites Shannon-Mangan’s ‘timid’ explanation in terms of self-concealment from fellow writers, and also Jacques Chuto’s Freudian conjecture that his ‘plagiarism’ is less child-stealing than ‘giving away his offspring like unwanted foundlings out of a denial of patrimony rooted in a hatred of his father’; also alludes to new evidence of the death of a brother, poss. at the hands of his father. Further: ‘His uncertain voice, his confusion of tongues, and his muddled identities can all be seen as the struggles of a Gaelic soul inside the ill-fitting language of the colonist; and the argument is supported by the Irish translations of his later years, which bring a fervid nostalgia to the recreation of the bardic elegy ... He could reclaim these heroic mythologies only a second-hand, with the help of cribs; but he succeeded in reinventing ancient Ireland in the spirit of a Continental-flavoured Romanticism, much as Scott had done in Scotland. This was large part of his legacy to Yeats [...; &c.].’ (p.9.)

[ top ]

John Montague, ‘Monuments to Mangan’ [feature-review of The Collected Works of James Clarence Mangan], in The Irish Times (26 April 2003), Weekend Review, p.10: Montague calls Mangan’s ‘the most piercing voice of his epoch’ whose poems are ‘testimonies to the survival of the crative spirit during the darkest days of our history / though sometimes he sounds like a voice from a shroud. His poems, especially in the 1840s, have an almost monotonous melancholy, which seems like the distillation from some weeping cloud crossing the striken landscape of mid-19th-century Ireland. Or, to change the metaphor, a funeral bell knelling endlessly.’ Quotes “The Funerals” and “The Famine”, and remarks: ‘But then this “piercing wail”, while indeed a lament for all Ireland, also has its source in Mangan’s own psyche’, and quotes Mangan’s autobiographical reference to a boyhood ‘haunted by an indescribable feeling of something terrible’ and to a ‘feeling of impending calamity’; further quotes from Mangan’s account of his father as a ‘human boa-constrictor’ from whom the poet took refuge in books: ‘I isolated myself in such a manner from my own nearest relatives that with one voice they all proclaimed me mad.’ Montague refers to Thomas Kinsella’s poem on Mangan. [Cont.]

John Montague, ‘Monuments to Mangan’, in The Irish Times (26 April 2003) - cont.: Quotes [from Dolmen edition of Autobiography, 1968], ‘the seeds of moral insanity were developed within me which afterwards grew into a tree of great altitude’; ‘My nervous and hypochondriacal feelings almost verged on insanity’; ‘I seemed to be shut up in a cavern with serpents and scorpions ... which ... discharged their slime and venom over my person.’ Montague conjectures, ‘Perhaps the greatest poetry came when his blasted psyche was mirrored by a blighted landscape, when political and personal suffering finally met in verse.’ Montague concedes that in compiling his Faber Book of Irish Verse, he included poems which he thought to be orginal but which he now discovers to be ‘copied from German’, e.g., the ‘wonderfully dolorous “Siberia”, which must be one of the greatest poems in the world: “In Siberia’s wastes / The Ice-wind’s breath / Wounded like the toothed steel ...” - turns out to be based on an obscure German poem about Polish leaders sentenced to Siberia after the 1830 Revolution’. In speaking of the present task of assessment, Montague quotes Terence Brown’s remark about Mangan’s attraction to the ‘romantic trope of ruination’ (Brown, Foreword, Selected Poems of JCM), adding [Montague] that the ‘dirge still draws on, from Kinsella to Durcan, and beyond.’

[ top ]

Quotations


Poetry

Poem extracts on this page ...
“A Vision of Connaught ... ”
“Dark Rosaleen”
“Lament for the Princes ... ”
“The Nameless One”
“Siberia”
“Cathleen Ni Houlihan”
“And Then No More”
“Famine”
“The Funerals”

Full versions of the poems ...
“A Vision of Connaught in the
 13th Century”
“My Dark Rosaleen”
“The Nameless One”
“Lament for ... Tirconnell”
“Hussey’s Ode to the Maguire”
“Gone in the Wind”
“The Lover’s Farewell”
“Siberia”
“The Woman of the Three Cows”
“And Then No More”
See Selected Poems of J. C. Mangan”, in Library, “Irish Classics”, infra.

For—

“A Lamentation for the Death of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight, of Kerry, who was killed in Flanders, 1642”, in W. B. Yeats, ed., Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (London: Walter Scott 1888) ...

... Go to RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics > W. B. Yeats” - via index or attached.

[ top ]

A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century” ‘[...] Anon stood night / By my side a man / Of princely aspect and port sublime. / Him queried I- / “O, my Lord and Khan, / What clime is this, and what golden time?”’ Notes Irish ceann means ‘head’ or ‘chief’ but Mangan uses the Oriental title as ‘really fancying myself in one of the regions of Araby the blest’. (Rep. in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol. 1, p.29) [See full text in Selected Poems of J. C. Mangan , RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, infra.]

[ top ]

Dark Rosaleen”: ‘O, my dark Rosaleen, do not sign, do not weep, / the priests are on the ocean, they roll along the deep. / There’s wine from the good Pope, / To bring us joy, / To bring us hope / My dark Rosaleen! / My own Rosaleen! / Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope, / Shall give you health, and help, and hope, / My Dark Rosaleen! / Over hills and through dales / Have I roamed for your sake; / All yesterday I sailed with sails / On river and on lake. / The Erne at its highest flood / I dashed across unseen, / For there was lightning in my blood, / My Dark Rosaleen! / My own Rosaleen! / Oh! there was lightning in my blood, / Red lightning lightened in my blood, / My Dark Rosaleen! //’ [For full text, go to Selected Poems of J. C. Mangan, in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics > Mangan > A Selection”, via index or direct; see also note, infra.]

Lament for the Princes of Tir-Owen and Tirconnell” (from the Irish): ‘0 Woman of the Piercing Wail, / Who mournest o’er yon mound of clay With sigh and groan / Would God thou wert among the Gael! / Thou wouldst not then from day to day / Weep thus alone. / ’Twere long before, around a grave / In green Tirconnell, one could find This loneliness; / Near where Beann-Boirche’s banners wave, / Such grief as thine could ne’er have pined Companionless. // Beside the wave, in Donegal, / In Antrim’s glen, or fair Dromore, Or Killillee, / Or where the sunny waters fall / At Assaroe, near Erna’s shore, This could not be. / On Derry’s plains - in rich Drumcliff / Throughout Armagh the Great, renowned In olden years, / No day could pass but womads grief / Would rain upon the burial-ground Fresh floods of tears! // Oh no! - from Shannon, Boyne, and Suir / From high Dunluce’s castle-walls, From Lissadill, / Would flock alike both rich and poor. / One wail would rise from Cruachan’s halls To Tara’s hill; / And some would come from Barrow-side, / And many a maid would leave her home / On Leitrim’s plains, / And by melodious Banna’s tide, / And by the Mourne and Erne, to come And swell thy strains! // Oh! horse’s hoofs would trample down / The mount whereon the martyr-saint / Was crucified. / From glen and hill, from plain and town, / One loud lament, one thrilling plaint, / Would echo wide. / There would not soon be found, I ween, / One foot of ground among those bands / For museful thought, / So many shriekers of the keen / Would cry aloud, and clap their hands, / All woe-distraught! [...]’ [For full text, go to Selected Poems of J. C. Mangan, in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics > Mangan > A Selection”, via index or direct.]

The Nameless One”: ‘[...] And tell how trampled, derided, hated, / And worn by weakness, disease and wrong, / He fled for shelter to God, and mated / His soul with song. // With song which always, sublime or vapid, / Flowed like a rill in the morning beam, / Perchance not deep, but intense and rapid -/ A mountain stream.’ [&c.]

[ top ]

Siberia” (pub. in the Nation on 18 April 1846): ‘In Siberia’s wastes / Are sands and rocks / Nothing blooms of green or soft, / But the snow-peaks rise aloft / And the gaunt ice-blocks. // And the exile there / Is one with those; / They are part, and he is part, / For the sands are in his heart, / And the killing shows. // Therefore, in those wastes / None curse the Czar / Each man’s tongue is cloven by / The North Blast, that heweth night / With sharp scymitar.’ (Poems of James Clarence Mangan, ed. D. J. O’Donoghue (Dublin & London 1903, p.11; quoted in Robert Welch, ‘Language and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century’, in Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing, London: Routledge 1993, p.32.) Further: ‘In Siberia’s wastes / The Ice-wind’s breath / Woundeth like the toothed steel. / Lost Siberia doth reveal / Only blight and death. / Blight and death alone. / No Summer shines. / Night is interblent with Day. / In Siberia’s wastes always / The blood blackens, the heart pines.’ (Quoted in Welch, ‘Irish writing in English’, in Introduction English Studies, ed. Richard Bradford, London: Pearson Educ. 1996, p.662.)]

Cathleen Ni Houlihan”: ‘Think her not a ghastly hag, too hideous to be seen; / Call her not unseemly names, our matchless Cathleen; / Young she is, and fair she is, and would be crowned queen / Were the King’s son at home here with Cathaleen Ny-Houlahan’. (Quoted in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.60.)

[ top ]

And Then No More”: ‘I saw her once, one little while, and then no more: / ’Twas Eden’s light on Earth awhile, and then no more. /Amid the throng she passed along the meadow-floor: /Spring seemed to smile on Earth awhile, and then no more: / But whence she came, which way she went, what garb she wore I noted not; / I gazed awhile, and then no more!’ [See full text in Selected Poems of J. C. Mangan, RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, infra - and note that the poem is quoted at length by John Mitchel in his introduction to the New York edition of the Poems (1859), where treats it as an expression of Mangan’s disappointment in love with his “Frances”, identifying it as ‘that ballad from Rueckert’ - and incidentally substituting the word Paradise for Eden (as above.)]

Famine” [1]: ‘Gaunt Famine rideth in the van, / And Pestilence, with myriad arrows, / Followed in fiery guise; they spare / Nor Woman, child, nor Man! / The stricken Dead lie without barrows / By roadsides black and bare [...].’ (The Nation, V, 254, Aug 15 1847, p.714.) (Quoted in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, Vol 1, 1980, p.138.)

Famine” [2]: ‘Despair? Yes! For a blight fell on the land - / The soil, heaven-blasted, yielded food no more - / The Irish erg became a Being banned - / Life-exiled as none ever was before.’ (Quoted in John Montague, ‘Monuments to Mangan’ [feature-review], in The Irish Times, 26 April 2003, Weekend, p.10.)

Famine” [3]: ‘O God! Great God! Thou knowst, seest, Thou! / All-blessed by They name! / This work is Thine! - / To Thy decrees, Thy law, Thy will, we bow - / We are but worms, / and Thou art Divine! / But Thou wilt yet / in Thine own day redeem / Thy Faithful; an this land’s / bright sun shall beam / To earth a Pharos and a Sign!’ (Quoted by David Wheatley, reviewing Jacques Chuto, Bibliography of J. C. Mangan, in Books Ireland, Dec. 1999, pp.370-71.)

The Funerals” (pub. in United Irishman, March 1849): ‘And towards the West at first they marched, / Then the South / Those endless FUNERALS, till the sky o’erhead, / As one vast pall, seemed overarched / With blackness, and methought the mouth / Of Hades had cast up its Dead!’ (Quoted in John Montague, ‘Monuments to Mangan’ in The Irish Times, 26 April 2003, Weekend, p.10.)

[ top ]

Prose

Anthologia Germanica / German Anthology, Vol. I [of 2] (Dublin: William Curry, Jun. & Co. 1845) - PREFACE (pp.[iii]-iv):

The translations comprised in these volumes have (with a single exception) been selected from a series which have appeared at irregular intervals within the last ten years in the pages of The Dublin University Magazine. They are now published in their present form at the instance of some valued friends of mine, admirers, like myself, of German literature, and, as I am happy to believe, even more solicitous than I am to extend the knowledge of that literature throughout these kingdoms. It will be seen that the great majority of the writers from whom they are taken are poets who have nourished within the current century. In confining myself gene- rally to these I have acted less from choice than from necessity. Little or none of that description of material which a translator can mould to his purposes is to be found in the lyrical or ballad compositions of the earlier eras of the German muse; and the elaborate didactical poems of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would not, I apprehend, be likely to suit the highly-cultivated tastes of readers of the present day. My design, I need [iii] scarcely remark, has been to furnish, not miscellaneous samples of all kinds of German poetry, but select samples of some particular kinds; and if I have succeeded in this design I have achieved all that I proposed to accomplish, and, I may venture to add, all that my readers would, under any circumstances, have thanked me for accomplishing.
  Of the translations themselves it is not for me to say more than that they are, as I would humbly hope, faithful to the spirit, if not always to the letter, of their originals. As a mere matter of duty, however, I am exceedingly anxious to express, and I do here once for all express, my most grateful acknowledgment of the very favorable reception they have experienced from the various periodical publications of the day, and more especially from the newspaper press. Though I may at times be induced to think that the language of my reviewers has been too nattering, I nevertheless gladly accept it as evidence of a generous good-will on their part towards me, which, while it does them honor, should excite me to such endeavours as might in some degree qualify me to deserve it.

J. C. MANGAN.

DUBLIN, JUNE, 1845.

 

Available [with full text] at Hathi Trust - online as book or text [digitised by Google from the copy at Harvard University, acquired 4 Feb. 1882.]


Autobiography (1): ‘At a very early period of my life I became impressed with the conviction that it is the imperative duty of every man who has sinned deeply and suffered deeply to place upon record some memorial of his wretched experience for the benefit of his fellow-creatures, and by way of a beacon to them to avoid in their own voyage of existence the rocks and shoals upon which his won peace of soul has undergone shipwreck.’ (Quoted Pádraig Ó Maidín, ‘Pages from an Irishman’s Diary: This Period Then’, in Éire-Ireland, 6, 1, Spring 1971, pp.27-34; p.32.)

Autobiography (2) - on his father ‘He was of an ardent and forward-bounding disposition, and, though deeply religious by nature, he hated the restraints of social life, and seemed to think that all feelings with regard to family connections, and the obligations imposed by them, were totally beneath his notice. Me, my two brothers and my sister, he treated habitually as a huntsman would treat refractory hounds. It was his boast, uttered in pure glee of heart, that we “would run into a mouse-hole” to shun him … To him I owe all my misfortunes.’ (Quoted in Denis Donoghue, review of Collected Works of Mangan, in London Review of Books [LRB] (March 2005), pp.21-22.)

Autobiography (2) - boa-constrictor: ‘If anyone can imagine such an idea as a human boa-constrictor, without his alimentary propensities, he will be able to form some notion of the character of my father.’ (‘Fragments of an Unpubished Autobiography’, in Irish Monthly, v, 10 (1882), [q.p.]; quoted in Critical Writings of James Joyce, [1959], NY: Viking 1967, p.76n., as a editorial footnote to Joyce’s “James Clarence Mangan” [lecture of 1902], with the additional remark, ‘In Finnegans Wake Joyce as Shem say, ‘Mynfadher was a boer constructor’ - FW180; here p.76.)

[ top ]

Goethe’s Faust - in a review of John Anster’s translation: ‘We commiserate with Faust .. But it is impossible for us to blend with our commiserations a single particle of respect. There is about Faust too much of unruly selfishness ... too little of that sublime resignation to Destiny which glorifies the sufferer, too little of a catholic feeling for the afflication of the species.’ (Anthologica Germanica V: Faust, Dublin University Magazine, VII (March 1836), p.279; cited in Joseph Spence, ‘“The Great Angelic Sin”: The Faust legend in Irish Literature, 1820-1900’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 1, 2, Autumn 1994, p.51.)

From a fireless room’: Mangan to James Haughton, a Young Irelander, writes from ‘a fireless and furnitureless room with a sick brother near me [...] I was unable to buy him more than an egg on Christmas Day.’ (Quoted in Ellen Shannon-Mangan, James Clarence Mangan, 1996; reviewed in Books Ireland, Summer 1996).

[ top ]