James Clarence Mangan

Edited and Introduced by David Wheatley

Available as an ebook only




Thirty years after The Gallery Press published Selected Poems of James Clarence Mangan (edited by Michael Smith, with a foreword by Anthony Cronin) the young poet and scholar David Wheatley has returned to original sources to distil, from an enormous and uneven oeuvre and for a new generation, the essential, enduring glories of the poetry of an inspired soul.

Yeats wished to be ‘counted one’ with him. Joyce decreed he was ‘the most distinguished poet of the Celtic world and one of the most inspired poets of any country ever to make use of the lyric form’. His gravestone proclaims him to be ‘Ireland’s National Poet’.

James Mangan (he adopted the ‘Clarence’ later) was born in Dublin in 1803. He worked as a scrivener and journalist, with stints in the Ordnance Survey Office and the library of Trinity College, Dublin. His poetry draws on an extraordinary range of sources, including exotic languages and legends, and features also ‘translations’ for which there were no originals. It continues the lyric flights of Shelley and Byron and the gothic fancies of Coleridge and De Quincey. It anticipates the work of Poe (nearly his exact contemporary) and the more modern notion of the poète maudit, all the while foreshadowing the work of Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Verlaine. Propelled frequently by hypnotic rhythms, enlightened by verbal play and ingenuity, from couplets to long poems, Mangan’s verse gives voice to the starkness of his own predicament (‘Old and hoary at thirty-nine’) and, in a poem like ‘Siberia’, fuses a desolate interior with the great concern of Famine Ireland. His masterpieces, ‘The Nameless One’ and ‘Twenty Golden Years Ago’, are cornerstones of nineteenth-century poetry, while ardent period pieces, such as ‘Dark Rosaleen’, are anthems of a former age. In tune with the intense passions of his time, his work appeared in the first issue of The Nation (1842). By the time of his death — of cholera — in Dublin in 1849, his haunted brain had sung, in high-flown reverie, ‘life’s bitter cup and woe’.

Born in Dublin in 1970, David Wheatley now lectures at the University of Hull. The Gallery Press publishes his four collections, Thirst (1997), Misery Hill (2000) which contains ‘Sonnets to James Clarence Mangan’, Mocker (2006) and A Nest on the Waves (2010). He has a tremendous ear for effective refrains, lines which take hold of the reader every time that they are sounded . . . He is surprisingly modern in the way he seems at home not with himself but with many selves . . . this handsomely produced selection is a fine introduction . . .

— John Redmond, The Guardian

David Wheatley has chosen about sixty poems for his selection and added a perceptive introduction.

Denis Donoghue, London Review of Books

Year Published: 2003
Details: 144pp
ISBN ebook:  978 1 85235 669 9

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