Joseph Mary Plunkett

Life
1887-1916; poet and revolutionary, son of Count George Noble Plunkett; ed. privately and at Stonyhurst; spent parts of childhood in Sicily, Malta, and Algeria for reasons of health (TB); issued The Circle and the Sword (1911), poems; co-ed. with Padraic Colum and others, The Irish Review, suppressed on account of his own articles, Nov. 1914; associated with Edward Martyn and Thomas MacDonagh in founding Irish Theatre, Hardwicke St., 1914; joined IRB and became Director of Operations; mbr. IRB Supreme Council and Military Council, 1915; accompanied Casement to Germany in search of guns, and left German High Command unimpressed;

co-ed. with Sean Mac Diarmada the ‘Castle Document’; underwent throat surgery shortly prior to Rising, and left convalescent home to participate at the GPO, as aide-de-camp to Michael Collins, 1916; mbr. Provisional Govt.; tried at Richmond Barracks; sentence to death by Col. Colonel E.W.S.K. Maconchy; returned to Mountjoy cell; m. Grace Gifford in Kilmainham chapel on the eve of his execution, the ceremony being conducted by Fr. McCarthy; Grace was subsequently arrested and held in North Union Workhouse; released under General Amnesty, 1917 (d. 13 Dec. 1955); Geraldine Plunkett ed. collected poems as Poems of Joseph Mary Plunkett (1916). DIB DIW DIH DIL ODQ KUN [FDA] OCIL

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Criticism
P. S. O’Hegarty ‘Bibliography of Joseph Mary Plunkett’, in Dublin Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1931); Geraldine Plunkett Dillon, All in the Blood (Dublin: A. & A. Farmar 2006), 350pp. [by the sister of J. M. Plunkett who married Thomas Dillon, Prof. of Chem., NUI Galway].

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Commentary
Brendan Kennelly, ‘The Poetry of Joseph Plunkett’, in Dublin Magazine (Spring 1966), pp.56-65. ... we should remember he had a unique visionary intensity; that some of his best poetry is born out of deep inner conflict; that he was concerned with the problems of good and evil in a way that Pearse and MacDonagh were not; and that occasionally, despite all his uncertainties, he speaks with a mystic’s certainty, insight and authority. (p.56) ... tension between the sense of his own greatest and the sense of his own littleness runs through ‘Occulta’, the first section of his Collected Poems. ... frequently confused and obscure, but one feels that this is so because his mystical experiences overwhelm his power of articulation ... occasionally ... takes what is essentially a meagre idea and inflates it to fill the sonnet form ... (p.57); His own dream-battle which was to become a grim reality, is symbolic of the struggle between good and evil in the heart of man. Viz., ‘Heaven and Hell’ (I alone of the souls I know/In Hell and Heaven am high and low ... My song gains power and grows more grim’) (p.58), ‘The Dark Way’ (‘Rougher than Death the road I choose/Yet shall my feet not walk astray/Though dark, my way I shall not loose/For this way is the darkest way ..’) and ‘Spark’ (Because I know the spark/Of God has no eclipse/Now Death and I embark/And sail into the dark/With laughter on our lips.’) (p.59); Probably the deepest single influence on Plunkett is Blake.. [whose] dictum ‘Without contraries there is no progression’ is at the very core of Plunkett’s thought [and] sustains one of his longest poems, ‘Heaven is Hell’ ... ‘I See His Blood Upon the Rose’, a poem which has survived the brutalising familiarity of many anthologies ... (p.60) love poems to Grace Gifford ... though passionate, are characteristically quiet; No doubt about his powers, ‘My songs shall see the ruin of the hills,/My songs shall sing the dirges of the stars.’ Tuberculosis and his own political convictions were against his development ... ‘There is no deed I would not dare ... the birth of the martyr meant the death of the poet ... (p.62 END).

Dublin Magazine (Spring 1966), Geraldine Plunkett [his sister], ‘Joseph Plunkett’, in Dublin Magazine (Spring 1966), pp.63-65, first poems were nonsense poems; started writing patriotic verse at fifteen; effected throughout childhood by ill-health; The Circle and the Sword issued by Maunsel in 1911, and organised by MacDonagh, while he was in Algiers; George Roberts demanded a certain bulk, and a sum towards cost of printing; called Joe; widely read in English poetry, influenced by Donne and Crashaw; often composed a complete poem mentally before he wrote it down and was then unable to alter it; no encouragement as poet until he met MacDonagh in 1911; nearly inseparable; started Theatre of Ireland with Edward Martyn, who paid the producer John MacDonagh; Joe gave the Hardwicke Hall, which belonged to his mother, and Thomas directed; plays ‘other than peasant plays’; theatre ended in 1916, when Martyn tried to carry it on alone; MacDonagh and Prof. Davy Houston asked Joe to take over the Irish Review, then struggling, in spring 1913; he raised money to pay its debts, and produced ten more issues; they also published MacDonagh’s Lyrical Poems and Pearse’s Suantraighe agus Goltraighe. Review ended Nov. 1914, not suppressed under Defence of the Realm Act but ruined by seizure of issue containing ‘Twenty Plain Facts for Irishmen’. Tom Kettle started Peace Committee to resolve 1913 Lockout, co-sec. Joseph Plunkett with Tom Dillon. Present at Rotunda Rink meeting of 1913 which founded Irish Volunteers, a member of Provisional Committee. ‘and from that time he put his mind to doing what he knew he had to do, but he continued to write poetry.’ The book printed after his death was ready for printing before Easter 1916. A big red folder of poems must have been burnt in the GPO.

Patricia Boylan, All Cultivated People (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988), p.91: ‘Plunkett’s letter of resignation from the [United Arts] club [opposing the club’s unwillingness to support the anti-enlistment campaign of Constance Markievicz] was read ... It would have been received with joy and relief had they known what he was up to - apart from his literary activities. He had edited The Irish Review for a year, but it had expired for want of support. He was now busy with the Irish Theatre, started by Edward Martyn with Thomas MacDonagh and himself ... The Theatre lasted only a year but it provided Plunkett with the perfect excuse for experimenting with disguises for his cloak-and-dagger activities as Director of Military Operations in the most secret Irish Republican Brotherhood ... theatrical manner of dress ... and delicate features hid an extremely efficient organiser [a]lready planning the deposition of forces ... [90]

David Cairns & Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland (Manchester UP 1986): Plunkett pithily expressed his view of Anglo-Irish mysticism in the title of an essay ‘Obscurity and Poetry’, and MacDonagh’s play Metempsychosis ... &c. [105]

Stephen Brown, The Press in Ireland (1937), Historical Sketch: III - The Modern Literary Revival’, pp.86-87: quotes first editorial: ‘The Irish Review has been founded to give expression to the intellectual movement in Ireland. By the intellectual movement we do not understand an activity purely literary; we think of it as the applcation of Irish intelligence to the reconstruction of Irish life.’; further, makes reference ot issue for May 1912 which contained article by Arthur Griffith on ‘Home rule and the Unionists’; the last number contained an article by MacDonagh on ‘the Best Living Irish Poet’, viz, Alice Milligan; a story by Lord Dunsany, and the manifesto of the Irish Volunteers repudiating the leadership of John Redmond; also twenty ‘Plain Facts for Irishmen’ in a thorough-going national spirit (acc. to Fr. Brown); refers also to a review of the same name but entirely different in character started in 1922, with contribs. from P. S. O’Hegarty, Lionel Smith-[Gornd], Eimar O’Duffy, and Padraic O’Conaire [sic].

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References
Oxford Dictionary of Quots., ‘I see his blood upon the rose/And in the stars the glory of his eyes’, from Poems (1916). FDA2 [286, 781, 782]. SEE also Irish Book Lover 4, 6, 13, 16. BELF holds Poems (1916).

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (1979): b. Nov. 1887; IRB, missions to Germany and USA, director of military operations; fnd with others The Irish Review; The Circle and the Sword (1911); post, Poems (Dublin: Talbot 1916). COMM, William Irwin, The Imagination of an Insurrection, Dublin Easter 1916 (OUP 1961), pp.131-139 [‘The poems show talent, but it is anybody’s guess if their baroque and chryselephantine lusciousness could every be brought under control, and once under control, directed toward greatness’; quoted in DIL]

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Quotations
I see his blood upon the rose,/A pathways by his feet are worn/His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,/His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,/His cross is every tree.’ (Poems, 1916, p.50; cited in Peter Costello, The Heart Grown Brutal: The Irish Revolution in Literature from Parnell to the Death of W. B. Yeats, 1891-1939, Gill & Macmillan 1977, p.82.)

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