I saw Samuel Beckett on the 205 this morning. Ok, not Samuel. He died in Paris in 1989 when I was 22. But his doppelganger. Dark clothes. Amused eyes. That lined face. Matching most every later photograph of the man. With the possible exception of
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
I find Beckett largely impenetrable. Anyway he alighted at Patrick Street.
Heaney too I sometimes find difficult. Although two lines from his poem Badgers have been rattling around in my head for some time now –
How perilous is it to choose
not to love the life we’re shown?
I take from those lines a very particular and personal meaning which the poet may not have intended.
I love Kavanagh’s Shancoduff –
My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket.
and Yeats’s September 1913 –
Yet they were of a different kind
The names that stilled your childish play
and Clarke’s The Planter’s Daughter –
Men that had seen her
Drank deep and were silent
and MacNiece’s Dublin –
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse.
And further back still to Mangan’s A Vision of Connacht in the Thirteenth Century; and to Wolfe’s The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna; and to Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village. And across the sea to Milton and On His Blindness, and to Browning and The Patriot. And across an ocean to Eliot, to Frost and to Longfellow.
My late father loved poetry. And politics and gardening and sports of all kinds. But it is the poetry that lingers. Late nights in a car travelling home from my grandmother’s farm on the Mayo side of the Mayo-Galway border. My father, pipe dangling from the corner of his mouth, reciting poems he himself had learnt by rote 30 or more years before in a rural Offaly schoolroom.
So I wanted to be a writer.