Obrázky na stránke

sippus,' another tragedy, which was written on little slips of paper in coffee-houses.'

In 1827, worn out with the tedious and anxious breadstruggle in London, where John Banim was his only friend, he returned to his kin in Ireland, and within a few months produced his 'Hallowtide Tales' and 'Tales of the Munster Festivals.' The novel of "The Collegians' was published in 1828 on his return to London, and fame and fortune now smiled hopefully upon him. Nevertheless he relinquished literature for a while, and at the London University entered upon the study of the law. This was soon abandoned in its turn for story-writing again, and then a despondency, which had been intermittent for some years, settled upon him. A religious gloom overshadowed him; melancholy anticipations of an early death-a 'strange feeling' that he had in the days of his childhood-oppressed him; he imagined he discovered that the well-merited fame that had crowned him was a delusion, a mockery, a vanity. The publishers had cheated him abominably.' Two guineas was his payment for translating a volume and a half of Prevost's works. He in his melancholy regarded his works as almost pernicious productions, and he destroyed his MSS. And then, 'tired,' as he wrote, 'of a stupid, lonely, wasting, desponding, caterpillar-kind of existence,' he retired from the world, its labours and rewards, its cares and glories, and became one of the Society of Christian Brothers, a body whose aim is to devote their unselfish lives to the education of the poor.

In 1838 he joined their monastery in Dublin, to enter upon a severe and laborious ordeal; from which, however, he derived happiness, we read. In 1839 he was transferred to the Cork establishment. The rigid vigils,

[ocr errors]


the constant fasts, the consuming soul-anxiety wore him away. He contracted a fever, and died at the North Monastery on 12th June, 1840. His resting-place in the cemetery of that institution is marked by a plain slab with the inscription, BROTHER GERALD GRIFFIN.'

The best of his many beautiful songs is perhaps 'Gille Machree;' and the following verse from one of his poems, written in his earlier years on the occasion of his sister's death, will afford a fitting insight into the mysterious working of his mind, and a proof of his high poetic power:


'If in that land where Hope can cheat no more-
Lavish in promise, laggard in fulfilling--

Where fearless love on every bosom stealing,
And boundless knowledge brighten all the shore ;
If in that land, when life's old toils are done,

And my heart lies as motionless as thine,

I still might hope to press that hand in mine,
My unoffending-my offended one!

I would not mourn the health that flies my cheek,
I would not mourn my disappointed years,

My vain heart mocked and worldly hopes o'erthrown ;

But long to meet thee in that land of rest


Nor deem it joy to breathe in carcless ears,

A tale of blighted hopes as mournful as thine own.'


HAD Mangan been an English poet of cleanly life and worldly wisdom, and had his works been given to the world by an eminent London publisher, his fame to-day would have been world-wide. But he was a humble lowly Irishman, who moped through his sober hours, who associated and dissipated with the human dregs of Dublin, who had as much prudence and common sense as the ostrich, who shrank from publicity and avoided notoriety -a bookworm, a dreamer, and a drunkard.

Like Moore, James Clarence Mangan was the son of a grocer. His father had come to Dublin from the county Limerick, from Shanagolden, had married a Dublin girl, and had set up a little struggling grocery business in Fishamble Street, where James Clarence was born, in 1803. The lad went to a school in a quadrangle off Werburgh Street, called Derby Square-a place once respectable, but then, as now, of the dingiest, dismallest dreariness. He left school early, and became an officeboy in a scrivener's, or attorney's-an experience he ever afterwards referred to with loathing and horror—and it is said that out of his paltry wages he maintained a mother and sister and brother. His life, however, about this period is a blank; he was swamped in misery and poverty, from which he never emerged. In 1830 he was contributing translations, from the German and Irish, to a local periodical. He knew not a word of Irish, and, if he had any knowledge of German, how or where he acquired it is a mystery. About this time he became known to Dr. Petrie and Dr. Todd, and was by the latter, who was librarian to the Dublin University, employed to compile a new edition of a catalogue of the college library. From 1833 he was a constant contributor of translations and quasi-translations to the Penny Journal, published in Dublin, and to the University Magazine, then edited by Isaac Butt. In 1842 he gave his talents to the newlyestablished Nation newspaper, and in 1847 transferred them to the United Irishman. Though not ostensibly one of the band of men who, as Young Irelanders, sought to 'redeem, regenerate, and disenthrall' their country, he was with them in so far that their sentiments were his, their aims were his hopes, and his pen was employed in their service. Amongst the literary young men connected

[blocks in formation]

with the "48 movement,' he had many friends; but he was not sympathetic or reciprocal-he was one that scarcely showed that he accepted or appreciated friendly advances. Thus no one seems to have taken much trouble about him; no one knew whence he came or whither he went. He was ghostly, solitary, silent, and mysterious—a man with no intimates. Somehow, in the month of June, 1849, it became known to Mr. O'Daly, a bookseller in Dublin, who had heard of and befriended him, that he was in a wretched condition, grievously ill, in an obscure house in Bride Street, an obscure portion of the city. O'Daly found him, weakened with opiumeating and disease, dying of starvation; had him moved to a hospital, where, after lingering a few days, the unfortunate poet died on the 20th June, 1849. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, where, amongst the abundant grass, his humble grave is hidden away.

It is hard, having read Mangan's poems, to reconcile one's self to the belief that it was the wretched dilapidated figure that glided through his forty-six years of poverty and drink to the disease and starvation that terminated his life, who conceived and wrote them. With his old, shapeless, weather-stained cloak round his odd, shapeless figure; with his long white silken hair unkempt; with his marble, deathly features, and his great blue eyes abstractedly looking into time or eternity; shrinking, rather than walking, through the streets-as such he is still remembered by many. He was to be seen perched on a ladder in the College library, poring over a book for hours, unmoved; he was to be found before the magistrate, fresh from the police-cells, whither he had been brought drunk and helpless from the gutters. He found relief from his earthly miseries in whisky and

opium; and despairing and uncomplaining, gentle and affectionate, starving himself to give bread to his womenkind, in quiet, speechless obscurity, he wasted the soul within him.

There is one ballad written by him on himself—'The Nameless One.' It is altogether unlike his other writings. It is a corollary and a supplement to the biography built on the few facts to be ascertained concerning him. It is a cry, a shriek almost, of passionate despair, of utter hopelessness. It is a glance into the soul of him, and a view of the devils tearing to pieces his heart. A few verses of this saddening production will suffice:

'Roll forth, my song, like the rushing river,
That sweeps along to the mighty sea;
God will inspire me, while I deliver
My soul of thee.


And tell how trampled, derided, hated,
And worn by weakness, disease, and wrong,
He fled for shelter to God, who mated
His soul with song.

'Go on to tell how, with genius wasted,
Betrayed in friendship, befooled in love,
With spirit shipwrecked, and young hopes blasted,
He still, still strove.




'And he fell far through that pit abysmal,

The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns,
And pawned his soul for the devil's dismal
Stock of returns.



'But yet redeemed it in days of darkness,
And shapes and signs of the final wrath,
When death, in hideous and ghastly starkness,
Stood in his path.





'And tell how now, amid wreck and sorrow,

And want, and sickness, and houseless nights,
He bides in calmness the silent morrow,

That no ray lights.'

« PredošláPokračovať »