James Stephens (?1880-1950)


Life
b. [prob.] 9 Feb. ?1880, - in a year uncertain to himself as well as others; his father died two years after and his mother worked in the Collins family home, Dublin, where he was adopted [var. she remarried]; Stephens is sent to the Meath Protestant Industrial School for Boys (orphanage, 1886-96); competed keenly in athletics with his two brothers, in spite of his diminutive size (4’6"); ran away persistently; at first worked as clerk in firm of solicitors (Wallace) and later for Reddington & Sainsbury, sols.).; joined gynastics team and won Irish Shield, 1901;
 
publishes his earliest story, 1905; employed as clerk-typist T. T. Mecredy & Son, solicitors, 1906; announced his arriage to Cynthia shortly after the birth of a stepdaughter, Iris (b. 14 June 1907); becomes friendly with Arthur Griffith, 1906 and contribs. poems, stories and essays to Sinn Féin; also to Irish Worker; George Russell [“AE”] reads a poem by JS in Sinn Féin, and seeks meeting, heralding him as a new Irish genius, 1907; issues Insurrections (1909), his first collection of poems - ironically sharing a title with his later memoir of the Dublin Rising of 1916;
 
he travels to Paris on advice of Thomas Bodkin, accompanied by Cynthia Kavanagh, 1912-15; contribs. “Mary, A Story” to Irish Review (April 1911-Feb. 1912), later issued as The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912); issues The Crock of Gold (1912), mixing whimsy, theosophy, and folk-tale; refines the amalgam in The Demi-Gods (1914); issues Here Are Ladies (1913), a realistic story-sequence; learns of post at National Gallery and applies; appointed Registrar, 1915-25 [var. 1924];
 
issues diary account of the 1916 Rising as Insurrection in Dublin (1916) - writing of the ensuing executions that it was ‘like watching blood oozing from under a door’; m. Cynthia Kavanagh, 1919, for reasons of Irish conventionality; engages in long-term project translating of Irish saga material conceived as an Irish comèdie humaine; issues Irish Fairy Tales (1920); moves settled in Kingsbury, London and works successfully as a BBC broadcaster, 1922;
 
issues In the Land of Youth (1924), a novel dealing with Maeve’s war with the men of Ulster (i.e., the narrative of Táin Bó Cuailgne); issues Collected Poems (1926; rev. edn. 1954); undertakes lecture tours in America under patronage of W. T. H. Howe of Kentucky; continues to broadcast with BBC during World War II, professing himself English, and gives more than seventy radio-talks during 1937-50; settles in cottage on Cotswolds estate of Sir William Rothenstein;
 
apparently accepts James Joyce’s suggestion that he finish Finnegans Wake if Joyce failed to do so; issues A Rhinoceros, Some Ladies, and A Horse (1946), being the sole part of a commissioned autobiography; passes last years in ill-health and depression; d. London; Mary Makebelieve successful drama revived in 1982 Dublin Theatre Festival; The Crock of Gold went through 46 American editions between 1912 and 1947, incl. 3 special editions for the America forces in WWII; Cynthia survive until 1960. NCBE DIW DIB DIL OCEL KUN FDA OCIL

James_Stephens-photo
James Stephens

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Works
Poetry (Collections)
  • Insurrections [Verses] (Dublin: Maunsel; London: Macmillan 1909,1912,1915), 55, [1]pp., 8o. [ded. “AE”], and Do. [6th edn. (Maunsel 1917), [4], 63, [1]pp.;
  • The Hill of Vision (Dublin: Maunsel; London: Macmillan 1912, 131pp.; 3rd edn. Macmillan 1922, 124pp.);
  • Songs from the Clay (London: Macmillan 1915);
  • Green Branches (Dublin & London: Maunsel 1916), 16pp [elegy to leaders of 1916] [18 [1] ltd. edn. 500] [“Autumn 1915”, “‘Spring 1916”, “Joy Be With Us”], and Do. [new edn] (1917) [poems two and three of these included as single longer poem under one title “Spring 1916” in Collected Poems];
  • Reincarnations (London: Macmillan 1918);
  • A Poetry Recital (1925);
  • Strict Joy (London & NY: Macmillan 1931);
  • Kings and the Moon (London & NY: Macmillan 1938).
Collected Edition
  • Collected Poems of James Stephens (London: Macmillan 1926, 1931, 1941), xiv, 268pp., and Do. [another edn.] (NY: Devin-Adair 1954), 390pp.;
  • The Poems of James Stephens, ed. by Shirley Stevens Mulligan, intro. by A. N. Jeffares (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe [2001] 2006), xlii, 343pp.

Samuel Adler, Four Poems of James Stephens: For High voice and Ppiano (NY & London: OUP [1963]), score 4 vols.; see others by Samuel Barber and by Michael Bowles.

 
Fiction
  • The Charwoman’s Daughter (London: Macmillan 1912), 228pp., [first serialised in The Irish Review, April 1911-Feb. 1912], publ. in America as Mary, Mary (Boston: Small, Maynard 1912) in America; Do. [viz., Charwoman], rep. with intro. by Hilary Pyle (London: Sceptre Books 1966); rep., with intro. by Augustine Martin (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1972), 128pp.; French trans. as Mary Semblant (Paris: Rieder 1927), with French preface in by Stephens;
  • The Crock of Gold (London: Macmillan 1912), 311pp. [see editions and summary];
  • Here are Ladies (London: Macmillan 1913), 348pp;
  • The Demi-Gods (London: Macmillan 1914);
  • [as James Esse,] Hunger: A Dublin Story (Dublin: Candle Press 1918);
  • Irish Fairy Tales, retold by James Stephens (London: Macmillan 1920) [see details], ill. by Arthur Rackham [inc. ‘The Story of Tuan MacCairill’, 1923 edn. pp.1-33]; Do. [ facs. rep.] (London: Godfrey Cave Assoc. 1979), x+318pp, 16 pls.; Do., rep. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1995);
  • In the Land of Youth (London & NY: Macmillan 1924), 303pp.;
  • Etched in Moonlight (London & NY: Macmillan 1928), 198pp.;
  • Deirdre (London & NY: Macmillan 1923), 286pp., and Do. [in French trans. as Deirdre] (Paris: Stock 1947);
  • How St. Patrick Saved the Irish (priv. 1931)
 
Selected & Collected Edns.
  • Lloyd Frankenburg, ed., James Stephens: A Selection (London & NY: Macmillan 1962);
  • Frankenburg, ed., James, Seumas and Jacques: Unpublished Writings (London & NY: Macmillan 1964;
  • Augustine Martin, ed., Desire and Other Stories ([q. pub.] 1981);
  • Patricia McFate, ed., Uncollected Prose of James Stephen 2 vols. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983) [Vol. 1, 1907-15, 128pp., front.; Vol. 2, 1916-48, xvi, 131-299pp.];
  • Shirley Stevens Mulligan, ed., The Poems of James Stephens (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 2007), 361pp.
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Miscellaneous
  • The Insurrection in Dublin (Maunsel/Macmillan 1916), xiv+111pp. [details];
  • Arthur Griffith, Journalist and Statesman (Dublin: Wilson, Hartnell & Co. [1924]);
  • On Prose and Verse (NY: Bowling Green Press 1928);
  • Julia Elizabeth (NY 1929) [one act com.];
  • Themes and Variations (1930);
  • ‘How the Husband of the Thin Woman Lost his Brother’, in Irish Review (Aug 1912), pp.396-03.
 
Correspondence
  • Richard J. Finneran, ed., Letters of James Stephens (London & NY: Macmillan 1974), with listing of published writings, xxiv+481pp., 8[pp.] plates, facs., ports.;
Broadcasts

A BBC talk on W. B. Yeats (London 1948) - see further under Yeats, infra).

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Bibliographical details
The Crock of Gold (1912)
Macmillan edition
  • The Crock of Gold (London: Macmillan [Oct.] 1912), [2], v, [1], 311, [5]p. ; 19cm.; Do. [2nd imp. Nov. 1912; also 1913, 1914, 1916, 1918), [3pp.], v-[vi], 311, [1]pp., 19 cm.; Do (London: Macmillan 1922), 298pp., ill. [drawings by Wilfred Jones, some col.]; Do. [Macmillan Facsimile Classic Ser.] (London: Macmillan 1926), [3], v-[vi] 1-311, [1]pp. [227pp.]; Do. [printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh] (NY: Macmillan 1926), [10], 227, [5]p., ill. [12 colour pls. and decorative headings & tailpieces by Thomas Mackenzie]; Do. (London: Macmillan 1928), v, 311pp.; Do. (NY: Macmillan [St. Martin’s Press] 1953, 1965), v-311pp.; Do. [facs. of London 1926 Edn.] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1980, 1995), 227pp.
 
Pan edition*
  • Do., foreword specially written for the Pan edition by Walter de la Mare (London: Pan Books 1953), 190pp., and Do. [reps. of 1953 edn.] (1965, 1973, 1978), 190pp.
*Note: Pan is the paperback division of Macmillan, London.
 
Other editions
  • Do., With an introduction by Clifton Fadiman (NY: The Limited Editions Club New York 1942), ill. [by Robert Lawson], [10], 163, [3]pp., 29.7 cm. [1,500 copies].†
 

†See The Monthly Letter of The Limited Editions Club, No. 146 (June 1942), published to coincide with distrib. of an illustrated edn. of The Crock of Gold , which includes a preface to The Crock of Gold by Clifton Fadiman.]

 
Translations
  • Do., trans. as Götter, Menschen, Kobolde: eine irische Erzählung [übertragen von Herta Hartmanshenn] (Wiesbaden: Bu¨chdruckerei Reinhold Witting 1947), 160pp.;
  • Do., trans. as Le pot d’or [traduit de l’anglais par A. et M. Malblanc] (Paris: F. Rieder et Cie. 1925), 240pp.
 
Note: The Crock of Gold (1912) went through 46 American editions between 1912 and 1947, incl. 3 special editions for use by the America forces in WWII. In America the work was generally read for its Irish folklore without reference to the satirical line of the story. (See Eamon Kelly, review of After the Flood: Irish America, 1945-1960, ed. Matthew J. O’Brien & James Silas Rogers, 2009, in Books Ireland, March 2011, p.49.) [See also extracts and plot summary, infra.]
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The Insurrection in Dublin [1st edn.] (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1916), xiv+111pp. [also a 2nd impression]; Do. (NY: Macmillan 1916), 148pp.; Do. [6th edn.] (Dublin: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1917); Do. (NY: The Macmillan Company 1917). 148pp.; Do. (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1919). 111pp.; Do. [3rd edn.] (Chicago: Scepter Books 1965). 100pp. [copyright Iris Wyse]; Do [rep. edn.], with an introduction & afterword by John A. Murphy [ facs. of Maunsel Edn of 1916] (Gerrard’s Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe 1978; rep. 1992). xxxiv, 116pp., ill. (For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Major Authors / James Stephens” - infra.)

Irish Fairy Tales, by James Stephens (NY: Macmillan 1920), CONTENTS: The Story of Tuan Mac Cairill; The Boyhood of Fionn; The Birth of Bran; Oisin’s Mother; The Wooing of Becfola; The Little Brawl at Allen; The Carl of the Drab Coat; The Enchanted Cave of Cesh Corran; Mongan’s Frenzy. [Available at Sacred Texts online; accessed 25.10.2010.]

Note: A signed copy of Collected Poems of James Stephens (Macmillan 1926) [ltd. edn. 500 large paper copies], 260pp. [ded. “AE”; is in the possession of Joan Bullock, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh - a grand-neice of Shan Bullock, q.v..]

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Criticism
  • I. A. Williams, Bibliographies of Modern Authors: J. C. Squires and James Stephens (Folcroft 1922), and Do. [facs. rep.] (1973) [ltd. edn. 100 copies];
  • Benedict Kiely, ‘Clay and Gods and Men: The Worlds of James Stephens’, in The Irish Bookman (October 1946), [q.p.], rep. in ‘A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays (Cork UP 1999), pp. 84-94;
  • Vivian Mercier, ‘James Stephens, His Version of Pastoral’, Irish Writing, 14 (March 1951), pp.47-59;
  • Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study [Upsala Irish Studies, No. 4] (Upsala and Cambridge, MA: Lundequist and Harvard University Press 1959)
  • Augustine Martin, ‘The Crock of Gold: Fifty Years After’, in Colby Library Quarterly, 6, 4 (1962), pp.148-58 [see extract];
  • Hilary Pyle, James Stephens, His Work and An Account of His Life (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1965), xi [1], 196pp. [2 lvs of pls.];
  • Margaret Black, James Stephens: Creative Artist and Irish Nationalist (Kent State University, Department of English 1976). Masters thesis 116pp.
  • Patricia Ann McFate, ‘James Stephens’s Deirdre’, in Éire-Ireland, 4, 3 (Autumn 1969), pp.87-93 [see extract];
  • Birgit Brämsback, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliography Study (Uppsala/Dublin Hodges Figgis 1959); Do. (Folcroft Lib. Eds. 1973), 209pp. [see details]; and Do. (Philadelphia, PA: R. West 1977), 209pp.;
  • Robert Hogan, ed., The Journal of Irish Literature, Vol. IV, 3 [, “James Stephens Special Number”, ed. and intro. by Richard J. Finneran & Patricia McFate], 4, 3 (Sept. 1975), 200pp.; play-version of The Demi-gods, 3 acts; also ‘Uncollected Early Writings’, ed. Patricia McFate, pp.47-61 - incls. fiction, poetry, essays, and book reviews.
  • Augustine Martin, James Stephens, A Critical Study (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1977), xii, 177pp. [see extract];
  • Richard J. Finneran, Letters of James Stephens: with an appendix listing Stephens’s published writings (London: Macmillan 1974). 481pp.
    Richard Finneran, The Olympian and the Leprechaun, W. B. Yeats and James Stephens [New Yeats Papers 16] (Dublin: Dolmen 1978), 36pp.;
  • John A. Murphy, intro. & afterword to James Stephens, The Insurrection in Dublin [rep. edn.] (Gerrard’s Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe 1978)., xxxivpp.
  • Patricia McFate, Writings of James Stephens (London: Macmillan 1979);
  • Alan Warner, ‘James Stephens’, A Guide to Anglo-Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1981), pp.121-131;
  • Jochen Achilles, ‘The Charwoman’s Daughter and the Emergenc[e] of National Psychology’, in Irish University Review 11, 2 (Autumn 1981), pp.184-97;
  • Anthony Cronin, ‘James Stephens: The Gift of the Gab’, in Heritage Now: Irish Literature in the English Language (Dingle: Brandon 1982), pp.147-55;
  • Léon Ó Bróin, Protestant Nationalists in Revolutionary Ireland (1985), p.129 [see extract];
  • John Cronin, ‘James Stephens, The Crock of Gold’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel, Vol. II (Belfast: Appletree Press 1990), pp.47-60;
  • Brigit Bramsback: ‘James Stephens and Paris: Insight […] from Letters to Thomas Bodkin’, in Ireland and France - A Bountiful Friendship: Essays in Honour of Patrick Rafroidi, ed. Barbara Hayley & Christopher Murray (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.93-106 [being an enl. vers. of Bramsback, ‘James Stephens: Dublin-Paris-Return, in Colby Library Quarterly, ed. D. Archibald (March 1961), pp.21-224.
  • Joseph Lennon, ‘James Stephens’s Diminutive National Narratives: Imagining an Irish Nation Based on the “Orient”, in The Comparatist, ‘Postcolonial Theory and Irish Literature’ [Special Issue, guest ed., Michael R. Molino], Vol. XX [Virginia Commonwealth Univ.] (May 1996), pp.62-81.

See also numerous references in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (OUP 1959), c.1930.

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Bibliographical details
Birgit Brämsback, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliography Study (Folcroft Lib. Eds. 1973), 209pp., ill. [1p. pl., front.]. Photo port. courtesy Lady Glenavy. CONTENTS: Manuscript material of James Stephens work, except letters; Unpublished letters; Separate publications of James Stephens; Books containing publications by Stephens; Contributions by JS to periodicals and Newspapers; Biography and Criticism; addenda; chronological table of separate publications; lists of newspapers and periodicals; BBC recordings; index.

[Note: Lady Glenavy, wife of the Free State senator, was formerly Miss Beatrice Elvery and a graduate of the Dublin Metropolitan College of Art.]

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Commentary

James_Stephens-by_Tuohy
James Stephens
by Patrick Tuohy (NLI)

[Photo. by Frank Callery]


Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘James Stephens concluded his eyewitness account with the prophecy that, though the country was not yet sympathetic, “in a few weeks she will be, and her heart, which was withering, will be warmed by the knowledge that men have thought her worth dying for.” The executions of the leaders, sickeningly spaced over a period of ten days, soon changed the mood of the country. Douglas Goldring, the English novelist, arrived one month later to find Dubliners already revering the victims, standing thoughtfully before their pictures in the shop windows. Stephens confessed to Goldring that he was ashamed of not being among the fighters. He should, he thought, have been in one of the three places, “in my grave, in jail, or on the roofs.”’ (p.127; citing Dublin Explorations and Reflections by “An Englishman” [viz., Maurice Goldring], 1917). [Cont.]

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Richard Kain (Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, 1962, 1972) - cont.: ‘In The Crock of Gold (1912) the iridescent imagination of James Stephens plays upon talkative and silent philosophers, old women with stones in their boots, and children whose eyes are being awakened to the beauty of existence. This fantasy is deservedly one of the most popular of Irish books. As a poet, Stephens is equally original. Fairies and satyrs and stamping centaurs, soaring birds and the apple at the very end of the bough make his verses little philosophic fables of the love of life. There is technical virtuosity too, as in “Arpeggio,” a sequence of dancing lines only one or two syllables long, or in the thirteenline apostrophe - without a verb - of “The Main Deep”: “… long-rolling / Steady-pouring / Deep trenched …”’ (p.168.)

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Patricia Ann McFate, writes that ‘While most readers owe their knowledge of the Deirdre legend to the works of W. B. Yeats, John Synge, James Stephens, and George Russell, the critics who have examined these literary versions have frequently been concerned with how unlike the ancient sources they really are. Even those who cite the works as representative of the Irish Literary Revival consider them as outside of or in opposition to the Gaelic legends themselves. / This is particularly ironic in the case of James Stephens’s novel Deirdre.’ (p.87 in McFate, ‘James Stephens’s Deirdre’, in Éire-Ireland, 4, 3, Autumn 1969, pp.87-93.)

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Augustine Martin, ‘The Crock of Gold: Fifty Years After’, in Colby Library Quarterly , 6, 4 (1962): Writing on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, Augustine Martin noted that it ‘is one of the few Irish prose works—perhaps the only one—to survive in print long enough to celebrate its golden jubilee’. (Colby Quarterly, 6, 4, 1962, pp.148-49; thus quoted in Donald Morse, ‘Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: The Fantastic in Four Twentieth-century Irish Novels’, in That Other World: The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature, ed. Bruce Stewart, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1998, p.269.)

Augustine Martin, James Stephens: A Critical Study (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield 1977) - on The Crock of Gold: ‘The book’s last flourish comes through the narrative voice where Blakean rhetoric, Irish myth, and a wry note of comedy is blended into the pattern, and the allegory enacts its last gesture.’ (p.54; quoted in Donald Morse, op. cit. 1998, idem.)

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Patrick Rafroidi, ‘The Irish Short Story in English: The Birth of a New Tradition’, in Terence Brown & Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): James Stephens’ novel The Crock of Gold (1912) and the not easily classified work In The Land of Youth (1924) show an abundant Gaelic influence. Neither one of them however is simply imitation, the personal themes of the author, like Time and the condemnation of Mercantilism, are always close to the surface or even dominant and the plot is always original. Straddling the frontier of the real and the imaginary, his short stories proper also betray his memory of his readings of ancestral legends. This is especially true of Desire ... the piece at the start of Etched in Moonlight (p.20).

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Léon Ó Bróin, Protestant Nationalists in Revolutionary Ireland (1985), Alice Stopford Green impressed by Insurrection. ‘The picture of the week day by day seems to be very good, and his conclusions, too, seem very fair. The sad part is that all the recommendations for a hopeful future that he suggests have not been carried out, just the reverse; and that the opportunity is gone for ever. And you can’t fairly put all the blame on the Irish for their lack of cohesion, as people like to do.’ What no doubt left a mark on her was Stephen’s avowal that there was no future for Ireland until the question of her freedom had by some means been settled, for that ideal had captured the imagination of the race. Stephens dismissed criticism of the leaders of the insurrection. Three of these whom he knew personally were more scholars than thinkers, and more thinkers than men of action, but they were good men and willed no evil. Their nominal President [MacNeill] was a good man too […] accused of treachery […] but not [a] traitor […] German intrigue and money and counted for so little as to be negligible. (p.129.)

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Brigit Bramsback, ‘James Stephens and Paris: Insight […] from Letters to Thomas Bodkin’, in Ireland and France - A Bountiful Friendship: Essays in Honour of Patrick Rafroidi, ed. Barbara Hayley & Christopher Murray (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.93-106: Stephens was learning French in Paris, with the help of Bodkin. […] Stephens jumped with delight at the suggestion made to him by Bodkin in June 1915 to apply for the Registrarship of the National Gallery of Ireland […] one of the Gallery governors fiercely resisted his candidature; he sent a letter of withdrawal via Bodkin which Bodkin however did not forward; appointed to the position in August 1915, first as Unestablished Registrar, then as Established Reg., and finally as Accounting Officer. Moved to London in 1925. Stephens broke with Bodkin after a flare-up at the Gallery in 1924, concerning the sell-on price of his MSS in America. After his death, Mrs Stephen’s supplied papers to Reginald Pound, son of Ezra, for Life and Letters of James Stephens, around Jan. 1954, but nothing came of it.

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Quotations
On the 1916 Leaders: ‘Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring, / For they were young and eager who are dead. / Of all things that are young, and quivering / With eager life, be they remembered. / They move not here! / They have gone to the clay. / They cannot die again for liberty. / Be they remembered of their land for aye. / Green be their graves, and green their memory.’ (Quoted in Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture, Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds 1962, p.161.)

Spring 1916

Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring,
For they were young and eager who are dead;
Of all things that are young and quivering
With eager life be they remembered:

They move not here, they have gone to the clay.
They cannot die again for liberty;
Be they remembered of their land for aye;
Green be their graves and green their memory.

At springtime of the year you came and swung
Green flags above the newly-greening earth;
Scarce were the leaves unfolded, they were young,
Nor had outgrown the wrinkles of their birth:

Comrades they thought you of their pleasant hour.
They had but glimpsed the sun when they saw you;
They heard your songs e’er birds had singing power,
And drank your blood e’er that they drank the dew.

Then you went down, and then, and as in pain,
The Spring affrighted fled her leafy ways,
The clouds came to the earth in gusty rain,
And no sun shone again for many days:

And day by day they told that one was dead,
And day by day the season mourned for you.
Until that count of woe was finished.
And Spring remembered all was yet to do.

Go Winter now unto your own abode,
Your time is done, and Spring is conqueror.
Lift up with all your gear and take your road.
For she is here and brings the sun with her:

Now are we resurrected, now are we,
Who lay so long beneath an icy hand,
New-risen into life and liberty,
Because the Spring is come into our land.

—Given on Facebook by Frank Callery [10.05.2016].

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Insurrection in Dublin (Dublin: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1916), Foreword: ‘[…] If freedom is to come to Ireland - as I believe it is - then the Easter Insurrection was the only thing that could have happened. I speak as an Irishman, and am momentarily leaving out of account every other consideration. If, after all her striving, freedom had come to her as a gift, as a peaceful present such as is sometimes given away with a pound of tea, Ireland would have accepted the gift with shamefacedness, and have felt that her centuries of revolt had ended in something very like ridicule. The blood of brave men had to sanctify such a consummation if the national imagination was to be stirred to the dreadful business which is the organizing of freedom, and both imagination and brains have been stagnant in Ireland this many a year. Following on such tameness, failure might have been predicted, or, at least feared, and war (let us call it war for the sake of our pride) was due to Ireland before she could enter gallantly on her inheritance. We might have crept into liberty like some kind of domesticated man, whereas now we may be allowed to march into freedom with the honours of war. I am still appealing to the political imagination, for if England allows Ireland to formally make peace with her that peace will be lasting, everlasting; but if the liberty you give us is all half-measures, and distrusts and stinginesses, then what is scarcely worth accepting will hardly be worth thanking you for.’ (p.xii.)

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Insurrection in Dublin (Dublin: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1916) [Chapter X: Some of the Leaders:] ‘The country was not with it, for be it remembered that a whole army of Irishmen, possibly three hundred thousand of our race, are fighting with England instead of against her. In Dublin alone there is scarcely a poor home in which a father, a brother, or a son is not serving in one of the many fronts which England is defending. Had the country risen, and fought as stubbornly as the Volunteers did, no troops could have beaten them - well that is a wild statement, the heavy guns could always beat them - but from whatever angle Irish people consider this affair it must [p.88] appear to them tragic and lamentable beyond expression, but not mean and not unheroic. / It was hard enough that our men in the English armies should be slain for causes which no amount of explanation will ever render less foreign to us, or even intelligible; but that our men who were left should be killed in Ireland fighting against the same England that their brothers are fighting for ties the question into such knots of contradiction as we may give up trying to unravel. We can only think - this has happened - and let it unhappen itself as best it may. / We say that the time always finds the man, and by it we mean: that when a responsibility is toward there will be found some shoulder to bend for the yoke which all others shrink from. It is not always nor often the great ones of the earth who undertake these burdens - it is usually the good folk, that gentle hierarchy who swear allegiance to mournfulness and the under dog, as others dedicate themselves to mutton chops and the easy nymph. It is not my intention to idealise any of the men who were concerned [p.89] in this rebellion. Their country will, some few years hence, do that as adequately as she has done it for those who went before them.’ (pp.87-89.)

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The Crock of Gold (1912): ‘What the heart knows today, the head will understand tomorrow.’ (Pan edn. 1953, p.111.) Further: ‘They swept through the goat tracks and the little boreens and the curving roads […]. And they took the Philosopher from his prison, even the Intellect of Man they took from the hands of the doctors and lawyers, from the sly priests, from the professors whose mouths are gorged with sawdust, and the merchants who sell blades of grass - the awful people of the Fomor […] and then they returned again, dancing and singing, to the country of the gods […].’ (The Crock of Gold [1912], NY: Collier 1967, p.228; quoted in Donald Morse, ‘Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: The Fantastic in Four Twentieth-century Irish Novels’, in That Other World [... &c.], ed. Bruce Stewart, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1998, p.269.)

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Self-Portrait: ‘I think I portray living, or the sense of being alive … the feeling of the wind, the sun, of spaces, of things that can be touched and digested by man, rather than of things which he is capable of doing, such as the murder and adultery and the trade-trickery which many others (and legitimately) write about. They give the idea of action, I try to give the idea of being … The parts of my books that I read with pleasure, and upon which I expend all the writing and art and craft that is in me, are precisely those parts which other people treat with disdain, i.e., the hingeing-on parts.’ (James Stephens, letter, cited by PJ Kavanagh in Spectator, 7 Jan 1995). Further, ‘[T]he beginning of chapters where one is only preparing for the story, the end of chapters where one is wiping up the mess which the action has made, into these I put all the energy I have got, much more than in the important places.’ (Letter of 1917; quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, ‘Stephen’s and staring, Spectator, 2 Sept. 1995, p.33.)

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Delight & sadness: ‘Unless delight is behind the writer of even a sad tale, his very sadness will be untrue; for it is the function of the artist to transform all that is sad, all that is ugly, all that is “real” into the one quality which reconciles the diversities that trouble us; into pure Poetry.’ (On Prose and Verse, 1928; cited in Donald Morse, op. cit., 1998, p.269.) [Cf. W. B. Yeats’s conception of ‘tragic joy’ - as given under Yeats, Quotations, infra.]

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References
Stephen Brown
, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912); The Crock of Gold (1912); Here are Ladies (1913); The Demi-Gods (1914).

Mark Storey, Poetry and Ireland since 1800, A Source Book (1988), pp.178-88, reprints ‘The Outlook for Literature with Special Reference to Ireland’, from Century Magazine (1922).

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Georgian Poetry 1911-1912 (The Poetry Bookshop MCMXVIII [1918]), incls. poems by Stephens, viz., ‘In the Poppy Field’; ‘In the Cool of the Evening’; ‘The Lonely God’ [all from The Hill of Vision]. Note: edn. printed by W H Smith with title facing ‘published December, 1912’.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects from The Hill of Vision “Light-O’-Love”; from Songs of the Clay, “The Ancient Elf”; from Collected Poems, “The Snare”, “A Glass of Beer”, “I Am a Writer”; also, extracts from The Crock of Gold (Bk. 1, Chap. VII); and Hunger (1918), based on the Lock-Out Strike of 1913. REFS & REMS, 521, 781, 1010, 1023, 1025, 1026, 1220; 1219, BIOG, WORKS & CRIT.

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Hyland Books (Cat. 214) lists The Crock of Gold [first illustrated edn.] (1922), ill. b Wilfred Jones [Hyland 214]; another edn. 1926, ills. in colour and decorative headings and tailpieces by Thomas Mackenzie; Deirdre, Do., French trans. (1947); another edn. (NY 1970), ills. Nonny Hogrogian

Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast, holds Green Branches (London 1917)); Irish Fairy Tales, ill. Arthur Rackham (London 1920); The Charwoman’s Daughter (London 1912); Where There are Ladies (London 1913); In The Land of Youth (London 1914); The Demi-Gods (London 1914); The Adventures of Seamus Beg (London 1916); The Insurrection in Dublin (Dublin 1916); Insurrections (London 1917); Reincarnations (London 1918); The Hill of Vision (London 1922); Deirdre (London 1923); The Crock of Gold (London 1923); The Crock of Gold (London 1926); Etched in Moonlight (London 1928); The Outcast (London: Faber & Faber, 1929), col. fp. by Althea Willoughby; Strict Joy (London 1931); Kings & The Moon (London 1938).

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Belfast Public Library holds Adventures of Seumus Beg (1915); The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912); Collected Poems (1912); Crock of Gold (1913); Deirdre (1923); Here Are Ladies (1913); Hill of Vision (1912); Insurrection in Dublin (1919); Irish Fairy Tales (1920); Kings and the Moon (1938); The Outcast (n.d.).

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Notes
The Crock of Gold (1912) is an amalgam of existential whimsy, theosophy and folk-tale with a cast of leprechauns, talking animals, the god Angus Óg as well as two philosophers married to the Grey Woman of Dun Goftin and the Thin Woman, ending with a magnificent hosting of the Sidhe. The story begins when Meehawl MacMurrachu’s skinny old cat kills a robin redbreast on the roof one day, thus setting in motion a long and peculiar chain of events since the robin is the particular bird of the Leprecauns of Gort na Gloca Mora, causing them to retaliate by stealing Meehawl’s wife’s washing-board - whereupon Meehawl turns to the Philosopher who lives in the centre of Coilla Doraca (a pine-wood) for advice on how to find it. The chain of events leads on further until Angus Ó, the god, becomes involved and ends up marrying Caitilin, the daughter of a local farmer. Stephens returned to this a mythological formula though handling it more effectively in The Demi-Gods (1914). [Notes in part from Fantastic Fiction website, online; accessed 20.08.09.)

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W. B. Yeats: Yeats’s personal library, now held in the NLI (Dublin) contains a copies of The Hill of Vision (MS 40,568 / 231; O’Shea Cat. 2002: 6 shts); Reincarnations (MS 40,568 / 232; O’Shea Cat. 2004: 2 shts).

James Joyce (1): Joyce envisaged when the met that he might complete Finnegans Wake; but see Stephen’s opinion of Joyce on the publication Dubliners, to the effect that “we in Dublin knew the poet to be the real Joyce”]. James Stephens’s view, reported in Ellmann’s James Joyce, ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle is the greatest prose ever written by a man (James Joyce [159], p.617; quoted in John Bishop, The Book of the Night 1989 [q.p.].)

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James Joyce (2): Joyce translates “St Stephen’s Green” into French, Germna, Latin, Morwegian and Italian to celebrate joint-fiftieth anniversary in May 1932; and further, ‘He hoped to have Stephens translate it into Irish, but Stephens did not know the language well enough’ (Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959; 1965 Edn., p.668.) Ellmann quotes Stephen’s ‘modest poem’ and asserts that it ‘scarcely demanded such linguistic virtuosity’: ‘The wind stood up and gave a shout./He whistled on his fingers and//Kicked the withered leaves about/And tumbed the branches with his and//And said he’d kill and kill and kill/And so he will and so he will.’ (Ibid., ftn.)

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SignedS”: ‘The attribution of “The Greatest Miracle”, signed “S” in the United Irishman, 16 Sept. 1905, to Stephens is a canard: Seumas O’Sullivan wrote it and republished it in Essays and Recollections (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1944), pp.141-43.’ (See Vivian Mercier, ‘John Eglinton as Socrates: A Study of “Scylla and Charybdis”’, in James Joyce: An International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Bernard Benstock, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982, p.66, n.)

Austin Clarke reports in A Penny in the Clouds (Chap. 3) that Stephen McKenna ‘taught Irish to James Stephens, and to his enthusiasm and help we owe Reincarnations [1918].’

F. R. Higgins told Austin Clarke how he mistook James Stephens for a bundel of rags in the wind as he walked through Rathgar, drowned in an outsized French cavalry officer’s cloak.

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Portraits: oil portrait by Patrick Tuohy, now in the National Gallery of Ireland, shows him in his ‘candle-extinguisher’ coat; an early portrait was made by Estelle Solomons, while a third, by William Rothenstein, is in the possession of Iris Wise, who holds the copyright of his works. Solomons was a neighbour with a studio in the flat above him on Brunswick St. (see Hilary Pyle, Estelle Solomons, Patriot Portrait, 1966). The Rothenstein portrait of Stephens was lent to the Irish Portraits Exhibition in 1965.

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