James Stephens (?1880-1950) - Quotations [1/2]

[ Note: Poetry and Commentary on this page; Fiction Works as Quotes 2 - infra]


On the 1916 Leaders: ‘Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring, / For they were young and eager who are dead. / Of all things that are young, and quivering / With eager life, be they remembered. / They move not here! / They have gone to the clay. / They cannot die again for liberty. / Be they remembered of their land for aye. / Green be their graves, and green their memory.’ (Quoted in Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture, Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds 1962, p.161.)

A Cry of Pain

I hear a sudden cry of pain!
There is a rabbit in a snare:
Now I hear the cry again,
But I cannot tell from where.

But I cannot tell from where
He is calling out for aid!
Crying on the frightened air,
Making everything afraid!

Making everything afraid!
Wrinkling up his little face!
And he cries again for aid;
- and I cannot find the place!

And I cannot find the place
Where his paw is in the snare!
Little One! Oh, Little One!
I am searching everywhere!

The Irish Review, Vol. IV (April, 1914), p.78.

Green Leaves (1916)

“Autumn 1915”

And we may be weary e’r we take the tide
Or make fair haven from the moaning sea.

Be ye propitous, winds of destiny,
On us at first blow not too boisterous bold;
All Ireland hath is packed in this hold,
Her hopes fly at the peak. Now it is dawn
And we away. Be with us Mananaun. [End.]

Note: ‘propitous’ [sic] for ‘propitious’ in Macmillan NY 1922 Edn..

—Green Branches (NY: Macmillan 1916) [see online; accessed 25.10.2020]
“Spring 1916”





Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring,
For they were young and eager who are dead;
Of all things that are young and quivering
With eager life be they remembered:
They move not here, they have gone to the clay.
They cannot die again for liberty;
Be they remembered of their land for aye;
Green be their graves and green their memory.

At springtime of the year you came and swung
Green flags above the newly-greening earth;
Scarce were the leaves unfolded, they were young,
Nor had outgrown the wrinkles of their birth:
Comrades they thought you of their pleasant hour.
They had but glimpsed the sun when they saw you;
They heard your songs e’er birds had singing power,
And drank your blood e’er that they drank the dew.

Then you went down, and then, and as in pain,
The Spring affrighted fled her leafy ways,
The clouds came to the earth in gusty rain,
And no sun shone again for many days:
And day by day they told that one was dead,
And day by day the season mourned for you.
Until that count of woe was finished.
And Spring remembered all was yet to do.

Go Winter now unto your own abode,
Your time is done, and Spring is conqueror.
Lift up with all your gear and take your road.
For she is here and brings the sun with her:
Now are we resurrected, now are we,
Who lay so long beneath an icy hand,
New-risen into life and liberty,
Because the Spring is come into our land.


Collected Poems (1926;rev. edn. 1954). First printed in Green Branches (Dublin: Maunsel 1916; London & NY: Macmillan 1916); see also NY edn. from The Macmillan Co. containing “The Autumn in Ireland: 1915”, “The Spring in Ireland: 1916” and “Joy be with us”. The last-lnamed was incorportated with the second in the Collected Poems (1926). “Spring 1916” was reprinted in Poetry Ireland (13 April, 1951) [NLI Cat.]; also reprint in Collected Poems (1954); for full version in Ricorso Library - as attached.


See Stephens’ translation of “Cill Aodáin” by Antoine Raftery - supra.

Prose Works

Title extracts
The Charwoman’s Daughter (Maunsel 1912)
The Crock of Gold (Macmillan 1912)
Here Are Ladies (1913)
Insurrection - (Dublin: Maunsel 1916)
Irish Fairy Tales (London: Macmillan 1920)
Available as full texts*

*All .doc & pdf files will download


Miscellaneous & Commentary

The Uncollected Prose of James Stephens, ed. Patricia McFate (London: Macmillan 1983), Vol. 1.

Sinn Féin (11 Sept. 1908); rep. in Uncollected Prose of James Stephens (1983), Vol. I, p.58-59.
Note: The page images given here are available at Macmillan Palgrave - online, and also at Google Books - online. Those shown there end with ‘and so is a country [...]’ and those shown at Google with ‘an examination in the [...]’ - as above [both accessed 29.09.2020]. A page break between pp.58 and 59 (before ‘discovered by an American’ has been elided here for display reasons.
The date of publication in Sinn Féin is supplied in Patrick Maume, ‘Lady Microbe and the Kailyard Viceroy: The Aberdeen Viceroyalty, Welfare Monarchy, and the Politics of Philanthropy’, in The Irish Lord Lieutenancy c 1541-1922, ed. Peter Gray, Olwen Purdue (UCD Press 2012), [Chap.10], Notes [online; accessed 13.10.2020].

[ top ]

Self-Portrait: ‘I think I portray living, or the sense of being alive … the feeling of the wind, the sun, of spaces, of things that can be touched and digested by man, rather than of things which he is capable of doing, such as the murder and adultery and the trade-trickery which many others (and legitimately) write about. They give the idea of action, I try to give the idea of being. [... T]he parts of my books that I read with pleasure, and upon which I expend all the writing and art and craft that is in me, are precisely those parts which other people treat with disdain, i.e., the hingeing-on parts.’ (James Stephens, letter, quoted by P.J. Kavanagh in Spectator, 7 Jan 1995.)

Further, ‘[T]he beginning of chapters where one is only preparing for the story, the end of chapters where one is wiping up the mess which the action has made, into these I put all the energy I have got, much more than in the important places.’ (Letter of 1917; quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, ‘Stephens and Staring’ [qry], in Spectator, 2 Sept. 1995, p.33.)

Autobiographical Fragment” [on becoming a writer]: ‘I had begun to write and had been for quite a time a solitary person, and, for quite a time, a solitary writer. When I had finished something that pleased me, a short story, a few verses, I would put such into an envelope, and drop it into the letter-box of Arthur Griffith’s weekly paper. I dropped these into the editor’s letter-box with my name duly signed, but with no address given, for I was certain that, while he would delight in my writings he could not possibly bother about who I was or what I looked like, or where I lived. Then, the week after, I would buy my pennyworth of that paper, and gloat over my contribution to it, admiring my vocabulary, which said, within reason, almost anything I demanded of it, astounded at the grammar which I had never striven for, and yet was mine, but more admiring, more astounded yet, at the fact that my matters were accepted by the great editor, and that everything I sent him was printed the very week next after its receipt.’ (‘Autobiographical Fragment’, in Uncollected Prose of James Stephens, ed. Patricia McFate, Macmillan 1985, pp.5-9; p.5; see longer extract Macmillan Palgrave [Spronger] - online; accessed 24.10.2020.)

[“Autobiographical Fragment”- cont.:] ‘The first, enthusiastic main of my reading in this journal was given to my own writings in it. Each of these I read and re-read twenty times, perhaps more, and the surprise I felt on seeing my very own name, black, and large, and printed, at the foot of my contribution was so great as to be almost hypnotic. I used to gaze upon that name and go with it into a complete solitude, wherein was nothing but my own self, and my infinite astonishment at me: then I would re-read my contribution, and marvel anew that neither God nor the Pope, but I only had written it, and that it verily was printed. Next having (not exhausted, but) thoroughly identified my writing with its author, and its author with all magnificence, I would read the rest of the paper, coming, in such readings, week by week upon names, all kinds of names, wonderful names. I saw that the news of the world is made up of the names of people, and that who does not know people or their names is sundered from all events, and cannot at all discuss them. These names as they recurred [5] began slowly to acquire character, temperament, talent. There were verses by Yeats, Russell, O’Sullivan, Synge, Colum, Susan Mitchell; and prose by these, and by an host of others; and I knew, bathing my soul in that eager prose and lovely eager verse, that every one of these writers knew, and by an hundred-fold, more than I upon every subject whatever, and I marvelled how it was possible for mere human creatures to know so much and so many as these did, and to write with amplitude and cogency upon all things, all peoples, all events. / I knew, and ’tis a very remarkable knowledge, that there were matters I could write upon as ’twere from the fount of knowledge itself; and that I had never experienced these matters troubled me nothing. Love and hate and jealousy: hope and terror and a complete carelessness of both: a certain contained frenzy of laughter, and a something, not the extremity of but the continuation of these, and called tears were things I needed not to study, nor be advised on. I knew them without any experience at all.

[“Autobiographical Fragment”- cont.:] ‘In the matter of knowledge I was, and knew it, but carelessly, the least knowledgeable of creatures - I knew words like lyric, epic, sonnet, and could use them, but I did not know what these words meant, nor suspect that they had definite, even rigorous, meanings. Definite meanings, and precise information, were matters that did not cloud my days or my pages until long afterwards. I relied upon what I felt like, or upon what I remembered having felt like. I might have held had I been questioned that nothing should or could be felt or written of except at its extreme, and that the extreme of joying or suffering and the expression of these required nothing else than to be written of as at that extremity. Violence is the gymnastic of youth, and even is its grace. It cannot [do] away with the definite, the precise, and must look on these as retardings and pretentious pedantries. Still reading the articles in my journal-resumés of political, economic, social events and significances: reading articles critical of, or, in so far as might be, explanatory of, Yeats and Moore and Shaw, the plays current in our Theatres, the established reputations and the newest books, events and the trendings of these I began to see that a furnishing of actual information, the equivalent of the next man’s, was necessary if one were to enter the game at all, and that for the lack of this I was incapable of reviewing even a novel, to say nothing of a book of verse. I despaired for an interminable moment, and encouraged myself in the moment immediately succeeding it. I began to educate [...’; pp.5-6; end Palgrave extract - available online; accessed 24.10.2020.]

[ top ]

Irish Englishmen: ‘That men should love their country and be proud of it and for it, is such a common and universal thing as to call for no expression of either surprise or approbation. From the time when history first began to take cognizance of and classify the motives that impel men towards regimentation, Patriotism has been lauded and sung as the first of the virtues, and without the leaven of which all other virtues are wanting. The Unit has always lived for the Mass. The idea of the individual has been subordinated to the idea of the State-that is patriotism, and when the subordination is complete and absolute, then the State is healthy. It has been left for later generations and an intensely patriotic people to show the reverse of the medal, the other side of the moon; and to exhibit patriotism afflicted with the most demoniacal squint that an abstract countenance ever looked side-ways with. This miracle is known as a West-Briton. He stands fore-front to God and man square, squat, saturnine, and silly, and doesn't appear to know that he is sufficiently funny to tickle the risibility of the equator. What is the case? Here is an Irishman, born in Ireland, living in Ireland, living by Ireland, and destined to die in Ireland, never having been out of Ireland and never going to be; nurtured in the most famous part of our land where the greatest of our poets have sung, the greatest of our warriors fought, and the greatest of our saints have prayed: where every hill and stone and tree is almost vocal with traditional glory, over every copse, valley, and hedge of [26] which fame hangs like a vestment; and yet the only feeling he has for his country or his countrymen is hatred. He can shout “God save England” with a will and lungs of brass, but “God save Ireland”? he’d die first, as he might himself put it- “Like a soldier and a man.” All his patriotism is exhibited against his patrie, his home is abroad, his enemies are his friends, he is patriotic for foreigners, he is a stranger in his own house, and is at home where he is not wanted. He smiles when God and man would have him scowl, and scowls when his arms should be open. He spits on the beard of his father and tears the robe from his mother, pointing a lewd finger at her nakedness, and laboriously cultivates the stolid virtues in the interim. He is not ignorant by any means; but he is as economical with his brains as he is with his money, fearing apparently that his middle age will be both penniless and senile, bankrupt in pocket and in hat, down at heel and down at head. The doctrine ofUtilitarianism has been so ground into him that he thinks in assets. The narrow, puritanic method of his culture has robbed him of most of the lighter joys of life, and the intolerant and false education that he receives has left him with an unplumbable ignorance of his country, its history, and its people. He has wrought so for his native land that today Ireland might be geographically described as the most westerly point of Europe, abounding in bogs and mementoes of King William, and densely inhabited by policemen. If he was pinned to a definition he could not tell what he is. Geographical reasons prevent him calling himself an Englishman, shame will not allow him to embrace the appellation of Irishman; he hangs in solution an eighth wonder of the world. Though he has no root name, he yet has a postal address, he is a “Northerner,“ a tail with no comet, a provincial of nowhere. He carries the throne of England in his tobacco pouch and the Protestant religion in his waistcoat pocket, and his life is rendered melancholy and jumpy in guarding these treasures; but, withal, he is not as bad as folk try to make him out - he is worse. His great argument against the liberty of his country is “that Irishmen don“t know how to govern themselves.” He has heard and repeated this so often that he believes it is one of the 39 Articles only absent from the Book of Common Prayer through a printer's error, and is not quite sure whether it was first enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount or engraved by the finger of God on the Mosaic tablets.’ (‘Irish Englishmen’ [q.d.], in Uncollected Prose of James Stephens, ed. Patricia McFate, Macmillan 1985, pp.26-29; here pp.26-27; available at Macmillan Palgrave [Springer] - online; accessed 24.10.2020.)

[See also ‘The Seoinin’, Ibid., pp.17-20: ‘Generally speaking, the Seoinin belongs neither to the aristocracy nor to the people — he or she, for unfortunately the female Seoinin predominates, is held in solution between the classes and the masses and approximates to neither. The Seoinin has received just sufficient education to make it patent to the observer that he or she is ignorant, and his or her ignorance is of a special type. There are some people who are ignorant in grain and there are more who are ignorant through misfortune. Neither of these, however, are ignorant in the same direction or with the same bulk as the Seoinin. The Sage who said that ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing,’ spoke one of the best aphorisms ever uttered by man. (Women incidentally don’t make proverbs, they make the stuff out of which proverbs are made.) He might, however, have written that a little learning is an ignorant thing, for that is how the matter stands. The person who knows that the earth is round, because he has been told so, or that the world is kept in motion by energy and force acting through matter, without understanding what either energy, force, or matter is, does not really know that the world is round or in motion at all, and is in danger of developing into an ignorant person; but, he knows that he knows something other people may not know, and the miraculous possession of, not knowledge, but information, in a head that is barren by nature, gives him a perverted judgment and a swelled cranium. [...]’ (‘The Seoinin’, in Uncollected Prose of James Stephens, ed. Patricia McFate, Macmillan 1985, p.17-20; p.17; see longer extract Macmillan Palgrave [Springer] - online; accessed 24.10.2020.)

The Insurrection of “98”: ‘One of the most remarkable examples of existing under difficulties is that presented by the Irish Nation. Warfare would seem to be the dominant note in Nature .... Nature has a short way with her vanquished. She suppresses them utterly, and the tale of their defeat is noted only in buried rocks and mud deposits; but for these signs, we would never know they had been, for no living trace of them or their battles has been perpetuated. They were defeated, and on their defeat Nature banished and obliterated them utterly in obedience to her universal law “win or die.”

The Insurrection of ’98” [Cont.]

  The spectacle, therefore, of anything existing in spite of defeat may well excite the critical acumen of the observer, and Ireland presents this unique spectacle. She may be said to exist in a state of chronic defeat. She lives in despite of, in the very teeth of defeat. Every effort she made in search of national organisation is stamped out ruthlessly, but she points to her captured standards, her submerged civilisation, her ancient learning and piety, her failures and futilities, and says “I can renew them - I will renew them all. I cannot be stamped out. I can be neither beaten nor discouraged.” Her national egotism is enormous. Her vitality boundless. Yesterday it was the United Irishmen [who] marched to certain defeat, and were not afraid. To-day Sinn Fein lifts a truculent head and the old lion may grow afresh. Ireland will howl derision, will scorn her victories and accept her own defeat with the liveliest hopes of one day and forever reversing that judgment. ...
  Ireland has never accepted the inevitable as being the ultimate. She has always, with an optimism that is almost marvellous, believed in her star. Behind all the woes of time, she discerns a destiny, and until she loses that faith or that egotism she cannot be utterly beaten.
  Every weapon that the sagest statecraft could suggest has in turn been used against her life. She has been discouraged to the verge of [47] extinction.She has been deported to vanishing point. She has been starved to a skeleton. She has been battle-harassed till she was prone with the earth. She has been planted with aliens until her real self was scarcely visible for the swarm of strangers. She has been laughed out of existence. Always the Celt has been going with a vengeance; always the Celt has been returning with a vengeance. Some time, she believes, her dogged persistency will be rewarded, and she will sit in the halls of her conqueror. When that day comes, if it ever does, she will certainly treat her enemy better than her enemy has treated her. ...
  Seekers after truth, with brows of meditation, are continually asking: Why should Ireland wish to be separated from England when English laws and attainments are the objects of almost universal esteem?
  English laws and successes are native to England, were born with her inception as a nation, grew lusty with her growth, were modified and amended in accordance with the trend of her culture, and are the flower of her national mind.
  But these matters that are so admirable at home in England are hopelessly abroad in Ireland. They are alien and not of the soil, they are inimical to the native culture of this country, and, while they are undoubted virtues in England, they are vices of a most malignant character in Ireland.
  If all the laws that England makes for Ireland were boons and blessings, and if every political action of hers was a concentrated beatitude, they would still be bad for Ireland, because they would not be the outcome of her own toil, they would not represent any native or thoroughly understood currency. Wealth that has not been worked for is a doubtful blessing, leading to cessation of activity, which means death. Laws that have not made themselves are oppressions. Acts of Parliament when not Acts of the nation are Acts of War.
  The belief of all nations is that whatever is foreign is unhealthy, and this belief is in its essence true, and notwithstanding the dreams of universal brotherhood, it is for the survival of nations a belief to be sedulously advocated. The culture of Nations, as of men, depends largely on environment. They, too, are moulded by their atmosphere, and no other nation can disperse that atmosphere or create an artificial environment that will be truly workable.
  Among the many efforts that Ireland made for freedom, perhaps the greatest was the Insurrection of 1798, [...]

‘The Insurrection of “98”’, in Uncollected Prose of James Stephens, ed. Patricia McFate, Macmillan 1985, p.47-54, here pp.47-48; see longer extract Macmillan Palgrave [Springer] - online; accessed 24.10.2020.)

The Philosopher Discourses on Government
 In order that there should be sufficient plunder to be disposed amongst his relatives (which in these polygamous times would be very numerous) it was necessary that the masses who were governed should be encouraged in every way to become as wealty as might be on the ground that the more they had the more they could be plundered of; thus industries of every kind were fostered with one hand and skinned with the other, and a benevolence, which was far from actual, became the boast of the Government. This benevolence, however, did not extend to countries outside the jurisdiction of the particular or not too particular, Government. They were prey to be treated as harsly as they would permit.
 So as civilisation spread, the art of government became more and more artful and subterranean in its methods. It became unworthy of the dignity of a king to plunder, as heretofore, with his own royal hands. His blood, through centuries of laziness and disease, has turned as blue as his people's outlook, and, as he was both unable and unwilling to undertake personally the collection of the boodle, various bailiffs, technically called solidiers [sic, for soldiers], sailors, and policemen were bribed to perform this and other cognate offices. These minions, by contact with an unhealthy government, soon became almost as vicious as a kind could be. However, they were by law forbidden to be blue, which was the peculiar complexion and prerogative of their masters.
 This, in short, indicates the growth of governments, armies, and policemen.
 For myself, I am entirely out of sympathy with any form of government at all unless its address is College Green and its members include myself. I do not see that this habit is current in nature saving amongst ants and bees. Neither cats nor dogs would submit to any organised coercion of their fellows, neither do caterpillars, hedgehogs, or sparrows, and these races appear to me [63] to be doing remarkably well in the absence of statemen.
 I think that the Members of Parliament, policemen, and other government officers should be dumped in a damp place for a long period and left there till they grow more and more blue and die of mouldiness. I detest the man who makes speeches forcibly at me, as M.E.P.’s do. I loath men who hit me with batons and then arrest me for not fighting - this is the prime duty of the policeman. I despise an institution which pilfers my goods nder the name of taxes, and puts me in goal if I attempt a little private robbery myself. [...]
Sinn Fein (28 Sept. 1909); rep. in Uncollected Prose, ed. McFate, Macmillan 1985, pp.61-64; available online; access 25.10.2020.

[ top ]

Meeting Joyce: ‘One evening my concierge told me as I came in that a tall, beautiful, blind gentleman had called and had left a note for me. It was from Joyce, and it asked me to meet him the next day. After that we met several times a week for a long time. I discovered that he approved of me in the most astonishing fashion, but it did take a little time to find out why. Then as the Dublin newsboys used to yell at customers, the whole discovery was made. / How Joyce made this discovery I don‘t know, but he revealed to me that his name was James and mine was James, that my name was Stephens, and the name he had taken for himself in his best book was Stephen: that he and I were born in the same country, in the same city, in the same year, in the same month, on the same day, at the same hour, six o’clock in the morning of the second of February. He held, with a certain contained passion, that the second of February, his day and my day, was the day of the bear, the badger and the boar. On the second of February the squirrel lifts his nose out of his tail and surmises lovingly of nuts, the bee blinks and thinks again of the Sleeping Beauty, his queen, the wasp rasps and rustles and thinks he is Napoleon Bonaparte, the robin twitters and thinks of love and worms. I learned that on that day of days Joyce and I, Adam and Eve, Dublin and the devil all shake a leg and come a-popping and a-hopping, yelling here we are again, we and the world and the moon are new, up the poets, up the rabbits and the spiders and the rats. / Well, I was astonished. I was admired at last. Joyce admired me. I was beloved at last; Joyce loved me. Or did he? Or did he only love his birthday, and was I merely coincident to that? When I spoke about my verse, which was every waking moment of my time, Joyce listened heartily and said “Ah”. He approved of it as second of February verse, but I’m not certain that he really considered it to be better than the verse of Shakespeare and Racine and Dante. And yet he knew the verse if those three exhaustively! (Stephens, ‘The James Joyce I Knew’, The Listener, Oct. 24 1940.) [Note that the Listener transcripts have been deliberately excluded from the Uncollected Prose, 1983.]

Delight & sadness: ‘Unless delight is behind the writer of even a sad tale, his very sadness will be untrue; for it is the function of the artist to transform all that is sad, all that is ugly, all that is “real” into the one quality which reconciles the diversities that trouble us; into pure Poetry.’ (On Prose and Verse, 1928; cited in Donald Morse, op. cit., 1998, p.269.) [Cf. W. B. Yeats’s conception of ‘tragic joy’ - as given under Yeats, Quotations, infra.]

Hunger & Sex [1]: ‘It is the populace mind, that money-grabbing, impenetrable shell, which is at the bottom of the trouble. It has twisted everything of worth. It would twist Progress it if could, but Progress is immortal, it is the only thing we know of that is immortal, for it is Life. The world marches on four legs; physical life travels on two called hunger and sex; mental life proceeds on two others, namely Religion and Statecraft. Hunger has been used to make slaves, and sex to to make pets and domestic beast of burden. They have twisted Religion into theology and debauched Statecraft into politics - and there lies the cause of the muddle which we call civilisation. ’ (From “The Populace Mind: II”, in The Irish Citizen, 1912; Uncollected Prose, ed. Patricia McFate (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983), I, pp.99-100.

Hunger & Sex [2]: ‘After hunger, there is no there is no subject in which an artist or a philosopher might more fruitfully interest himself than the sexual relations in of humanity. [...] intent on construction, have expressed sex as a liaison, and compressed it to a formula which is very easy to handle.’ (“The Old Woman’s Money”, in Uncollected Prose of James Stephens, ed. McFate,Vol. I, Gill & Macmillan 1983, pp.125-128; p.127; see also commentary by Werner Huber, as supra.)

Poetry & Life: ‘We are told by various philosophic people that life is daily becoming more and more complex. That is not true. Life is to-day just as simple as it was a thousand years ago. We can travel quicker along our roads, we have a wider variety of foods wherewith to stay our hunger, we have more news, that is all; and none of these things really influence our lives and their simplicity. We can only eat when we are hungry, however varied and tempting the viands; only travel till we are tired, however exhilarating the speed, only gossip till we are sleepy, however piquant the scandal. Men died of hunger in Baghdad and Nineveh as they die of hunger in London and Paris. Men courted and married and were true and false to their wives in Sodom and Gomorrah as they do in Dublin and Berlin. Long ago in Egypt Joseph, the son of Jacob, made a successful corner in wheat, and to-day in America men are making a corner in wheat also; and neither Joseph of the East nor Jonathan of the West are greatly troubled by the misery their rapaciousness entails. Man, so far as we know, is just as good or as bad as he ever was. History shows neither advance nor retrogression in virtue. If we change at all it is in geologic periods. God’s hour is a long one.

[Cont.:] ‘Life is simple enough, and this is life: Our adventures in search of our daily bread: and dire and terrible enough these are, God knows. Our adventures in search of our wives: and joyous and frightful these are also, as joyous and as frightful to-day as when, long ago, Jacob met Rebecca at the well and was glad; or when David admired Bathsheba, and put her husband in the forefront of the battle to his death- and our adventures in search of adventure: when we walk, wide-eyed, through the Fields of Romance looking for Happiness, a thing that never existed and never will, the legendary Ghost of Nothing. / Hunger and thirst, love and hate, the kindness of the human heart and the cruelty of the same, the starry width of the sky and the broad, woeful ocean, the grass, the trees and the birds, the spider waiting in his filmy house, and the gnat winging his minute path through space unterrified and thoughtless and propagating safely his microscopic kind - these are life and those complexities we hear so much of are but foolishness and vexation, things of the smallest moment that the waywardness of man’s mind and the mad trend of a civilisation have elevated into bogies. / Let the poet walk wide of these things, that are not things but lies, [...]’ (“Poetry” [1907] in Uncollected Prose, Vol. I, Gill & Macmillan 1983, p.30; available at Springer - online.)

[ top ]

James Stephens on his own poetry - some epistolary remarks
—Letter to W. T. H. Howe, a friend, in 1913 (Letters, p.65); quoted in McFate, The Writings of James Stephens (1979), p.[88]. McFate writes that Stephens was influenced by the ‘exotic qualities’ of Lord Dunsany’s [Edward Plunkett] stories - with whom he corresponded - and by the dramatic monologues of Robert Browning:
Letter to Lewis Chase (Letters, p.202); quoted in McFate, The Writings of James Stephens (1979), p.89.
See further short extracts at Palgrave publisher -online; accessed 05.06.2020