Collected, edited and annotated by A. Norman Jeffares
23.5 x 15.5 cm. xxxii, 861 pp. 2001
Poems and Plays brings together the contents of Oliver St John Gogarty’s fifteen volumes of poetry, including his Collected Poems. It also contains poems published individually in various journals and 232 hitherto unpublished poems; as well, there are his three Abbey plays – Blight, A Serious Thing and The Enchanted Trousers – published under the nom-de-plume Gideon Ouseley, together with Incurables and the incomplete Wavelengths.
Much of Gogarty’s poetry was classically inspired; his witty lyric poems have the elegant grace of Herrick or the terse eloquence of Marvell. His appreciative poems about his friends and his elegies for some of them are balanced by Martial-like satires; his enthusiastic enjoyment of beauty is matched by the encomiastic treatment of places, itself reinforced by a keen awareness of their historical and often dramatic associations.
Gogarty, the son and grandson of doctors, was born in Dublin in 1878. His novel, Tumbling in the Hay (1939; 1996) gives a sparkling account of medical student life in Dublin at the beginning of the twentieth century. When he was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin, Gogarty was befriended by the famous classical dons Tyrrell and Mahaffy and the philosopher Macran. At the same time he had a circle of contemporaries (many met earlier when he was briefly a student at University College, Dublin) known for their raffish behaviour and mocking, bawdy wit; among them were James Joyce, John (‘Citizen’) Elwood and Vincent Cosgrave. James Starkey (‘Seumas O’Sullivan’) was another contemporary companion. And Gogarty’s acquaintanceship widened to include George Moore and W.B.Yeats who, despite thirteen years difference in age, became a lifelong friend.
An all-round athlete who was a champion cyclist, who successfully rescued drowning men on three occasions, Gogarty followed up his medical degree with a spell of study in Vienna, returning to become a successful Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist in Dublin. His lively autobiographical As I was going down Sackville Street (1937; 1994) records something of the entertaining eccentricity of many of the city’s citizens in the 1920s as well as the characters of those involved in its cultural and political life.
Gogarty’s wit irradiated his exuberant conversation. Many of his Rabelaisian poems have remained unpublished until now. They circulated freely, however, in the talk of Dublin, especially among the group who met in Fanning’s public house or the Bailey, such fellow wits as George Redding and Neil Montgomery.
Gogarty, whose politically active friends included Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and Michael Cusack, became a Senator of the Irish Free State. Kidnapped by the I.R.A. in the Irish Civil War in 1923, he escaped being shot by plunging into the River Liffey and swimming downstream to safety. Renvyle, his large house in Connemara, bought when he realised that cars made it more accessible from Dublin (he was an enthusiastic early motorist and Ireland’s first amateur aviator) was burnt down by the I.R.A. shortly afterwards. When it was rebuilt in 1930 Gogarty turned it into a hotel. There, as in Dublin, he and his wife entertained generously, their circle of friends ever-widening.
As he moved away from medicine Gogarty sold his Dublin house, 15 Ely Place, finding more time for writing in Connemara. In 1939 he went on a lecture tour in the United States and, disillusioned by de Valera’s Ireland, stayed on, supporting himself and his family (there were two sons and a daughter) in Ireland, by writing and lecturing. He came back at intervals, transport permitting, but died in New York in 1957, the year that he had decided to return permanently to Ireland.
Now that his work is being made available again, readers have the opportunity to appreciate the lively evocative writings of this Renaissance man whose poetry W.B.Yeats so admired, including more of Gogarty’s work in his Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935 than of any other living poet. His poetry conveys his infective love of beauty of all kinds, the fundamental seriousness beneath his witty persiflage, his moving awareness of Time’s inexorable pressures, and his emphasis upon the need to face death with dignity.
The collection is divided under the headings chosen by Gogarty himself for Collected Poems
Part 1 - Collected Poems (1951): Odes and Addresses - Earth and Sea - Satires and Facetiae - Love and Beauty -Life and Death - Elegies.
Part 2: Poems in Various Volumes - published and unpublished, not included in Collected Poems. Hyperthuleana (1916), Secret Springs of Dublin Song (1918), The Ship and Other Poems (1918), An Offering of Swans (1923), An Offering of Swans and Other Poems (1924), Wild Apples (1928, 1929, 1930), Selected Poems (1933), Others to Adorn (1938), Elbow Room (1939), Perennial (1944, 1946), Unselected Poems (1954), Penultimate Poems (prepared but unpublished).
Part 3: Poems published in journals and unpublished volumes. Odes and Addresses - Earth and Sea - Satires and Facetiae (Dislikes and Disapprobations, Limericks, Parodies, Light-hearted Verses, Some Martello Tower Poems, Seamus O’Sullivan Poems, Poems concerning Dermot Freyer, Jesting about the Sinclair Brothers, Classical Themes, Religious Thoughts, Political Poems, On Drinking, Medical Meditations, Monto Poems) - Love and Beauty -Life and Death - Elegies.
Appendices, Notes, Notes on the texts, and Addenda, including ‘Delphi’, written as an entry for the Newdigate Prize.
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