Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Planters Daughter, a poem by Austin Clark.

Post 569 - Austin Clarke (1896 – 1974) was one of the leading Irish poets of the generation after W. B. Yeats. He also wrote plays, novels and memoirs. Clarke's main contribution to Irish poetry was the rigor with which he used technical means borrowed from classical Irish poetry when writing in English. Describing his technique to Robert Frost, Clarke said "I load myself down with chains and try to wriggle free."

Born in Dublin, and educated by the Jesuits and at UCD, he fell unhappily in love with the playwright Geraldine Cummins, and suffered a mental collapse. On New Year's Eve 1920, he and Cummins married in a registry office, and he lost his post at UCD, apparently because of the civil marriage. In 1922 Clarke left for London and worked as a book-reviewer there for fifteen years. In 1937 he returned to Ireland with his then wife Nora Walker. As he had failed in a divorce action against Geraldine Cummins, his marital position was irregular, and he suffered another nervous breakdown. Clarke then began a prolonged silence as a poet, not broken until Ancient Lights (1955). He later wrote two volumes of autobiography, Twice Round the Black Church (1962) and A Penny in the Clouds (1968).

I just love the last two lines in this poem of his.

The Planters Daughter by Austin Clark.

When night stirred at sea,
An the fire brought a crowd in
They say that her beauty
Was music in mouth
And few in the candlelight
Thought her too proud,
For the house of the planter
Is known by the trees.

Men that had seen her
Drank deep and were silent,
The women were speaking
Wherever she went -
As a bell that is rung
Or a wonder told shyly
And O she was the Sunday
In every week.

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