Mangans is such a memory, captive and overborne. It may be unjust to lend him the epitaph of defeat, for he never strove at all. One can think of no other, in the long disastrous annals of English literature, cursed with so monotonous a misery, so much hopelessness and stagnant grief. He had no public; he was poor, infirm, homeless, loveless; travel and adventure were cut off from him, and he had no minor risks to run; the cruel necessities of labor sapped his dreams from a boy; morbid fancies mastered him as the rider masters his horse; the demon of opium, then the demon of alcohol, pulled him under, body and soul, despite a persistent and heart-breaking struggle, and he perished ignobly in his prime.
We know nothing of his ancestry; and can trace to none of its watersheds the stream of tendency in one so variously endowed. There are Mangins buried in the old Huguenot ground in Dublin, from whom Edward Mangin, a writer of much charm, but unknown to fame (1772-1852), was descended. Was our poet possibly derived from the Manians, or clan of Hy-Many, descendants of Maine Mor, who was in the line of Cairbre Liffeachair, King of Ireland in the third century? Or we may, with reason, conjecture that Mangan had some Norman blood; for his features were of a decided Norman cast. He was born at number 3 Fishamble Street, the ancient Vicus Piscariorum of Dublin, on the first day of May, 1803. He was the eldest of four children, an early-dying family; his brother, the only one who survived him, was destined to follow him to the grave during the same month. The father belonged in Shanagolden, Limerick, and was a grocer in fair circumstances when his son was born. The house and shop were the property of the mother, Catherine Smith, a comely member of a respectable farmers family near Dunsay, in the County Meath. The shop seems to have been soon resigned by the elder Mangan to a brother-in-law, whom he beguiled over from London; and into the receptive hands of the new-comer he is said to have delivered his elder son, and all responsibility for him. James Mangan was a nervous, wilful, tyrannous person, of whom his little ones were afraid. He retired from his business on a competency, but ran through his new estate from excess of hospitality, made his small investments which failed, and died prematurely of the superior disease of disillusion and vexation. The poet, in a posthumously published autobiographical fragment, half-fanciful, half-literal, thus describes him, and exalts or debases him into a Celtic type: His nature was truly noble; to quote a phrase of my friend ODonovan, he never knew what it was to refuse the countenance of living man; but in neglecting his own interests (and not the most selfish misanthropes could accuse him of attending too closely to those), he unfortunately forgot the injuries which he inflicted upon the interests of others. He was of an ardent and forward-bounding disposition; and though deeply religious by nature, he hated the restraints of social life, and seemed to think that all feelings with regard to family connections, and the obligations imposed by them, were beneath his notice. Me, my two brothers, and my sister, he treated habitually as a huntsman would treat refractory hounds. It was his boast, uttered in pure glee of heart, that we would run into a mousehole to shun him! While my mother lived, he made her miserable; he led my only sister such a life that she was obliged to leave our house; he kept up a continual succession of hostilities with my brothers; and if he spared me more than others, it was, perhaps, because I displayed a greater contempt of life and everything connected with it. ... May God assoil his great and mistaken soul, and grant him eternal peace and forgiveness! But I have an inward feeling that to him I owe all my misfortunes.
Mangans judgments were gentle. He was never heard to criticise nor blame any one but himself. Yet the experiences of his tragic infancy must have affected the fountain-springs of human feeling. Perhaps he remembered his own nameless antipathy, by contrast, when he came to render the wistful thought of a dead father in August Kuhns lonely little wildwood boy:
An odd moody child, he was sent to school in Swifts forlorn and formal natal neighborhood, in Derby Square, off Werburgh Street. There was a master there who had baptized him in Rosemary Lane Chapel, and who loved him; and from him he learned, among other things, the rudiments of Latin and French. But at thirteen or at fifteen (it is impossible to know which), he had to enter the bitter workaday lists of the world, for the support of a family of steadily-sinking fortunes, who, once they found him productive of so many shillings a week, had no mercy for him, and preyed upon him like a nest of harpies. As early as 1817 the talent within him was visibly astir, venting itself in the charades and whimsical rhymes proper to deservedly obscure Diaries and Almanacs. But before he was sixteen, he had printed some noteworthy verses, with all of the faults, and some of the virtues, of his maturer work, and dark already with settled melancholy. This is a fine imaginative passage from the pen of a child:
For seven weary years he toiled at copying, from five in the morning, winter and summer, until eleven at night, through a boyhood which knew no vacations. Mangan shared this hard boyish experience with Samuel Richardson, bound out at thirteen as apprentice to a printer in Aldersgate, and undergoing for seven years an intolerable drudgery. He never uttered, then or after, Mangans lyric cry of protest; perhaps because he knew that Pamela and her prose were conspiracy-proof, and not to be snuffed out in him. For three years succeeding, the young Mangan was an attorneys clerk, in close air and among vulgar associates, so tortured in every sentient fibre of his being that he affirmed nothing but a special Providence preserved him from suicide. The circumstances of this slavery gnawed into his memory. Isolation of mind was his habit then as afterwards, and long walks at night were his sole relaxation. As he looked back upon the spectacle of his innocent and stricken youth, he was able to record the anguish at which the outer willingness was priced. I would frequently inquire, though I scarcely acknowledged the inquiry to myself, how or why it was that I should be called upon to sacrifice the immortal for the mortal; to give away irredeemably the Promethean fire within me, for the cooking of a beefsteak; to destroy and damn my own soul that I might preserve for a few miserable months or years the bodies of others. Often would I wander out into the fields, and groan to God for help: De profundis clamavi! was my cry.
These were the years when first he took comfort, five minutes at a time, in delightful study; when from pure single-hearted passion he made himself an Oxford out of nothing, and won what is rightly called his profound and curiously exquisite culture; when toward the unlovely home, anon removed to Peter Street, and again to Chancery Lane, or the yet unlovelier office, at 6 York Street, he would go softly reciting some sad verses of Ovid which had a charm for him at school, and keeping his mind alive with bookish reverie: a solitary young gold-haired figure, rapt and kind, upon whom no gladness ever broke, and who was alone in any crowd. His genius led him instinctively into scholastic ways. Mr. T. H. Wright, with equal truth and pathos, has thus sung of him:
In the parlors of 2 Church Lane, College Green, he found his earliest encouragers; intellectual tipplers, like Tighe and Lawrence Bligh, stood ready to be Mangans colleagues in worldly paths. A friend betrayed his confidence in some way, and helped him to a sickening foretaste of what his lot was to be. We have no reason to infer, however, that the blow was dealt to so trustful a heart by any of the radiant and erratic Comet Club, of which that interesting person, Samuel Lover, was then a member. Sometime between 1825 and 1835, Mangan had a calamity of the heart. Mitchels too romantic statement, generally followed, is that Mangans first love was given to a girl much above him, according to our strange surveys; that she encouraged his shy approaches, and he was tremblingly happy; that tor the pleasantest period of his life he was in frequent contact with those who made for him his fitting social environment; and that at the moment when he feared nothing, he was scornfully whistled down the wind. And the natural inference is that his harsh disappointment warped the poets life, and fastened on him his air of irremediable suffering. There is every reason why Mangan should have had a hard lot, and a heavy heart to carry, without being crossed in his affections. In Grants Almanack for 1826, is a poem addressed to him, signed by his old friend Tighe, reproaching Mangan for the dole that hath too long oercast his soul. He was then twenty-three. It hardly follows that the event in question was already past. All adolescent thinkers, whether lovers or not, experience dole. In the October of 1832 died Catharine Hayes, of Rehoboth (the quaint old house with the Syrian name), a young girl, almost a child, to whom he taught German. It has been said that this was she to whom he was engaged, that the breaking of the tie was an amicable affair of mutual heroism, and that the girl perished, shortly after, of consumption. Let us look into the poetic chronology; for though Mangan, orally, was a most uncomplaining person, he was not altogether reticent, upon paper. Elegiac Verses on the Early Death of a Beloved Friend first appeared in The Comet, on the tenth of February, 1833. They were unearthed and reprinted by John McCall. Beginning
these tender lines were clearly written out of no vital destroying grief. Ten days later, and also in the columns of The Comet, appear from Mangans pen Two Sonnets to Caroline, adorned later by bantering adjectives: Two Very Interesting Sonnets to Caroline. They are a-quiver with something: one knows not whether with strong feeling in the perfect tense, or with that dramatic semblance of strong feeling which Childe Harold had made easy to his contemporaries. They are not love-poems. The curious circumstance connected with them is that they figure anew in The Dublin University Magazine for January, 1839, as translations from Gellert! and the elegy for C. H., with six stanzas eliminated, emerges, in the April number following, tagged from the Irish; and with a colophon in genuine Gaelic superadded. Furthermore, we have to consider a prose paper by Clarence in The Weekly Dublin Satirist, dated October of 1833. It is called My Transformation; the heroine is one Eleanor Campion; a bitterly-conceived sketch, ending in burlesque, it affords minute description of lifes fitful fever. Clearly, Mangan was in a very black Byronic mood indeed circa 1832-3. Little Miss Hayes was in no wise responsible for it; but her dying coincided neatly with the a posteriori suspicions of historiographers. As we have seen, he reprinted these melodramatic compositions in 1839: a year when he recurred afresh to the pseudosubjective vein. Amid the clumsy machinery of the dialogue Polyglot Anthology, Mangan produces some rather imprecatory stanzas To Laura, or, as afterwards amended, To Frances, beginning with a plagiarism from Burns:
which would seem to indicate that he stood in no awe of his victress; nor does he fail to mention, with his usual mendacity and presence of mind, that the lyric reproach is taken from the Italian. Beautifully does it close:
It has been taken for granted by some, since the version entitled To Frances is less inaccessible than the other, that Frances was the true name of the cruel maid: a most unlikely deduction.
A recent writer, R.M.S., in The Catholic World for October, 1888, gives a thoughtful vote of accusation to one Frances Stacpoole. Stackpole, too, is the name independently rescued by Mr. W. B. Yeats from the reminiscences of an aged Anglican Archdeacon. Says Miss Susan Gavan Duffy, in a private letter to the editor (1896): Margaret, not Frances Stacpoole, was the name of the lady beloved by Mangan; and my Father says you are right in surmising that his blightedlove episode was not so overwhelming a grief as it has been represented to be; for when it was all over and past, Mangan repeatedly took my Father to visit Margaret, and her mother and sister. Of course there is no doubt that the poet was a wrecked and broken-hearted man, though Margaret Stacpoole may be not in the least accountable for his misery. Charles Gavan Duffy had met Mangan, through Carleton the novelist, in 1836. During the very time, therefore, when the poet was still gladly visiting the gentlewomen who kept their kindness for him, he was putting together the highly-colored maledictions which could not possibly have represented his real feeling. That he was, in some sense, disillusioned, and thrown back upon himself, is sure. It is piteous that he had ever hoped for common domestic happiness: his fate could neither achieve it nor sustain it, for an hour. He was ineffably unhappy, and in his loneliness poured his unhappiness into verse. It would be unjust to call his attitude a pose; for he was sincere. Yet lie must have expressed a little more than he felt, as did every poet of that melodramatic generation. And there is some evidence that he knew his lack of discipline. Stanzas Written in Midsummer (1839) he rechristened as Stanzas Which Ought Not to Have Been Written in Midsummer. They are gruesome pictures of
We must remember that a poets despair cannot gracefully charge itself to dearth of beef, unpleasant kinsfolk, and headaches out of a morphine phial. Hence woman, and the love of woman, come in as the causa rerum, irrespective of proof, even with a Mangan. After his rebuff, he worked back into some show of moral courage and indifferentism; and it is said that no fair face ever appealed to him again. Other, and more mocking faces, walked by his side; for his ruin had begun, and the fatal friend of sin clung to him, when the white visions he adored had, one by one, withdrawn.
Henceforth it is not so easy to track him; he seems to have vanished into smoke. His bright hair blanched of a sudden during his first withdrawal from the upper world, and from the fire which burned his fingers. Whatever is known of him has been gathered only with extreme painstaking; his personal history is quite as vague as if he had lived in a hermits cell eight hundred years ago, when as yet the fine arts of spying and reporting were in the germ. Even to the men who saw him close at hand, he was a stranger. He passed through their company like the ghost of a séance, with Drydens down look, with soundless speech and gait; whence and whither none could discover. Mangan was a loving student of the mediaeval alchemists, and he took for his own the black art of shooting out of darkness into a partial light, and vanishing as soon. He would disappear for weeks and months at a time, and baffle search. It was evident that he mingled, meanwhile, with those who had snapped all links with human society. Nor is he the only poet in English letters over whose head the tides of despair rose and rolled, that he might so sink, and float, and sink again. We have not forgotten Dr. Johnsons heartfelt lament over Richard Savage, who, not without an inner battle, retired occasionally into chaos, his pension-money in his pocket. On a bulk, in a cellar, or in a glass-house, among thieves and beggars, says that illustrious friend, was to be found the author of The Wanderer, the man of exalted sentiments, extensive views, and curious observation; the man whose remarks on life might have assisted the statesman, whose ideas of virtue might have enlightened the moralist, whose eloquence might have influenced senates, and whose delicacy might have polished courts. Into such lowest deeps of partial insanity did Mangan also die, and out of them, ever and again, he was born, humble, active, clean of heart, by some reparative miracle, his eyes fixed (they, at least, never wavered) on eternal beauty and eternal good.
The confession is most inaccurately phrased. It is by poetic license, indeed, that the consequences of other drugs are so visited, before all men, on the known scapegoat head of whiskey. But The Nameless One was written in 1842. By that time Mangan had learned intemperance. It is pathologically impossible that a man should be a drunkard and an opium-eater at the same time. The general testimony is that the very smallest quantity of spirits was sufficient to send Mangan on the road to madness. He could never have gratified an appetite for strong drink, did he possess it; for his physical forces were ruined. He may have begun in his youth, on a few occasional grains of opium, with the intent to deaden the pangs of hunger and dejection. Such things have been. And he must have tasted of liquor in the end, as part and parcel of a resolve to break off at any cost from life-long slavery. Between De Quincey, who struggled successfully, and Coleridge, who struggled hardly at all, stands this lonely Irish poet, who struggled in vain. Sometime between his twenty-eighth and his thirty-fifth year he stopped on his downward course, and entered on a new life. Feeble, but not overborne, eager for any help, though it were full of danger, he fell presently on the neck of one evil, seeking deliverance from another. And whereas, in his former misery, he had cried out in no human ear, he began now to pour forth impotent plaints and promises, after the manner of dipsomaniacs. These are too painful to quote. One marvels how his patient and compassionate friends endured him at all; and that they stood by him even while he evaded and disheartened them, proves that in Mangan, repentant for the moment, survived a spark of the immortal he was, some nameless divine quality which never forfeited reverence. Sighing over him, they may have anticipated the mournful final verdict passed by Stevenson on Burns. If he had been but strong enough to refrain, or bad enough to persevere in evil! ... there had been some possible road for him throughout this troublesome world; but a man, alas, who is equally at the call of his worse and better instincts, stands among changing events without foundation or resource. It is the one atoning circumstance, in Mangans favor, that though his attempt was a foregone defeat, it was a brave fight; he broke himself to pieces in the effort to save his soul alive. His occasional regularity of living, and his deepening religiousness, show that some very powerful influence was at work within him. Is it a stretch of fancy to recur to Margaret Stacpoole? She must have refused him prior to 1837, and the refusal was perhaps conditional. It may well have been that she was the witness to his vow of reform; and that afterwards, while he came and went with other literary men, in her mothers house, she was gazing through tears, in the pauses of his losing battle, on her poor shattered knight. At any rate, the supposition harmonizes with what we know of his restless, ever-remorseful, light-adoring, and gloom-oerdarkened spirit. Had his passion indeed ended in the short pang of a rude dismissal, as some of his biographers contend, it would have left him more of a man. A hope of marriage, subdued and cherished long, eclipsed a thousand times by horrible folly and weakness, and flickering on in convalescent dreams, would be the explanation both of much of Mangans poetry, and of the moral turmoil of all his latter years. Love the saviour was not strong enough to save him. The men who guessed nothing of his true heart-history, and who saw him often and near enough to connect his squalor and despair with a mere common dissipation, were natural contradictors of that earlier allegation, Carletons or anothers, concerning opium. Still less did they disentangle the thing Clarence Mangan was, from the things he kept on doing. In the sight of the All Wise, he must have approximated not to the suicide, but to the martyr.
He is no subject for biography. Paul Verlaine is his only parallel, were it not that Mangan had no such intense moods of religious mysticism, and none of bestiality. No purer and more benignant spirit, it is John Mitchel, again, who speaks, ever alighted upon earth; no more abandoned wretch ever found earth a purgatory and a hell. There were, as 1 have said, two Mangans: one well-known to the Muses, the other to the police; one soared through the empyrean and sought the stars, the other lay too often in the gutters of Peter Street and Bride Street. ... In his deadly struggle with the cold world he wore no defiant air and attitude; was always humble, affectionate, almost prayerful. He was never of the Satanic school, never devoted mankind to the infernal gods, nor cursed the sun. Giving what he could, and asking nothing, genial and gentle to all that lived, he did not lack affection. In his penury, his eccentric habits, his irresponsibilities, he found a distinguished and devoted few to replace his mistaken circle of Church Lane wits: Mr. George Petrie, Dr. Todd, and Dr. Anster, the translator of Faust; the Reverend John Kenyon of Templederry, Dr. Gilbert, and especially Charles Gavan Duffy. The Nation paid Mangan in advance for the copy he too often forgot to supply; he had a haven in Trinity Library, and another in the Ordnance Survey Office, where he was at peace awhile among topographers and antiquaries, generally the happiest-tempered of men. He might have lived with those who would have appreciated and protected him, but he, for reasons, was too shy and too proud. It pleased him better to sit in the liberty of a garret by William, his invalid brother, sipping tar-water, and, with his delicate smile, watching the others consumption of the single egg, which was all Apollos vassal could afford to buy him for a certain Christmas dinner; or to move from lodging to lodging, with his hand-bag and his large, malformed umbrella, devising how he could redeem his manuscripts, and his Berldeian tar-water, too, left in pawn for the antepenultimate rent. The poor gifted creature was driven more than once to private beggary. We read of him, at another time, as residing in a hay-loft, and eloquently expostulating with the landlady, a person with a syllogistic eye to conflagrations, because she would allow him no candle to write by! Nothing very definite ever happened to him. Always suffering, always absent-minded and a prey to accidents, he was no stranger to hospitals, and cheerfully asserted that his intellect cleared the moment he entered the ward. Lonely, weak, harassed, scorning precautions, on the ground that there is no contagion but thinking makes it so, clinging with foolhardy calm to his Bride Street dwelling during the great cholera epidemic, Mangan perished; suddenly and quietly, as the shutting of a glow-worms little lamp, on the twentieth of June, 1849, his life went out, at the Meath Hospital, Long Lane, whither he had been removed. He was buried in Glasnevin. Three persons are said to have followed his body to the grave. One of these was the Reverend Charles Meehan. The tardily-raised headstone was placed by Mangans uncle, Mr. Smith.
From Mr. Hercules Ellis we have some distressing details of our poets last days. For twenty years, he says in a sympathetic preface to his book, The Ballads and Romances of Ireland, Mangan labored assiduously in his art, gladly accepting for his works payment lower than that given to the humblest menial; and the return for this devotion of his noble genius to the noblest purposes was a life of privation and wretchedness, and an early death caused by want, and cold, and hunger, and nakedness, and every kind of misery.
He goes on to say that, on taking up one of the Dublin newspapers, he was much startled by the announcement of the death of Mangan, of whom he had ever been a warm admirer, though a stranger; and that he reached the Meath Hospital in time to see his body before burial, wrapped in a winding-sheet, wasted to a skeleton. From the house-surgeon he learned that Mangan, alone and ill, in a wretched room, had been discovered by the officers of the Board of Health, and removed, as a probable victim of the cholera, to the North Union sheds. But the attendant physician recognized him, and found him not infected, but merely starved. He was immediately transmitted to the Meath Hospital, where everything that skill and kindness could suggest for the purpose of reviving the expiring spark of life was attempted, and attempted in vain. The unfortunate child of genius sank hourly, and died shortly after his admission, exhibiting, to the last, his gentle nature, in repeated apologies for the trouble he gave, and constant thanks for the attentions and assistance afforded him. In his pocket was found a volume of German poetry, ... in his hat were found loose papers. Laboring to the last in his noble art, striving to obtain a morsel of bread by the production of the finest compositions, ... poor Clarence Mangan died; an honor to his country by his writings, a disgrace to it by his miserable fate.
Father C. P. Meehan, whose kind voice, reciting, by request, the Penitential Psalms, was the last sound Mangan heard on earth, also testified, on being questioned many years after, that Mangan died, not from cholera, but from exposure and exhaustion. Unattended for the moment, it seems that he arose, and got out upon the street, and in his great weakness fell into a pit dug for a house-foundation, and lay there awhile before being rediscovered. Mr. Elliss account was thought to be sensational when it was published. But there is a grave fear that it was the truth. The conditions, not of one mishap or one moment, which killed Mangan, were those which have visited poets from the earths beginning, those which the comfortable world, well-clad, well-dined, with its feet on the fender, finds it hard to believe in at all. Whatever nominal and visible cause appeared to end him, amid the terror and contusion of the great cholera outbreak, we may set him down as a victim, foredoomed from his birth,
To the tragic testimony of those who stood at Mangans bedside, may be added an extract from a letter of Miss Jane Barlow to Mrs. Hinkson (Katharine Tynan), since permission has been accorded to quote it here. The other day I went to see Miss Margaret Stokes, whose acquaintance I made lately. She was talking about Clarence Mangan, whose friend her father was, as no doubt you know. In fact, he was his last friend. For Mangan had been lost sight of by everybody for a very long time, when, one morning, as Dr. Stokes was going his rounds in the Meath Hospital, the porter told him that admission was asked for a miserable-looking poor man at the door. He was shocked to find that this was Mangan, who said to him: You are the first who has spoken one kind word to me, for many years: a terrible saying! Dr. Stokes got him a private room, and had everything possible done for him; but not many days after, he died in Dr. Stokess arms. Immediately after death, such a wonderful change came over the face that Dr. Stokes hurried away to Sir Frederick Burton, the artist, and said to him: Clarence Mangan is lying dead at the Hospital. I want you to come and look at him; for you never saw anything so beautiful in your life! So Sir Frederick came, and made the sketch which is now in the National Gallery. I daresay you have heard all this before. Mr. F. W. Burton, as the painter then was, hurriedly drew the pallid head as it lay back on the pillow, old and weary with its forty-six insupportable years: hurriedly, because there was some groundless fear of infection; and from this first small sketch, he made the very touching and striking picture, which Miss Barlow mentions as among the treasures of the Irish National Gallery on Leinster Lawn in Dublin. The original seems to have passed into Father Meehans hands; and by him was given to its present possessor, the Reverend J. H. Gavin of S. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Pennsylvania. The larger and more perfect head was beautifully reproduced in Irish Love Songs, published by Mr. Fisher Unwin in 1894. There is no truer relic of its class, in the history of English letters; not even among death-masks. And it recalls to mind, would one seek its fellow, Severns heart-breaking little drawing of the dying Keats. A sad redoubled value attaches itself to this memorial of Mangan, when it is remembered that it was his only portrait. He was too secluded and indifferent to wish his features perpetuated, too little famous to attract artists, too poor to pay them. We have to thank Dr. Stokes and Sir Frederick Burton alone for the broken reflection of his already vanished spirit. From this famous vignette some half dozen copies have been made; or, rather, basing themselves upon it, these have endeavored to represent the poet as he lived, with no marked technical success, and all, save one, with a significant misconception. Mr. D. J. ODonoghue, the best authority on everything pertaining to Mangan, says of these attempts: They are not like him. As they are all deductions, as it were, from the Burton in the National Gallery, they make a curious mistake in assuming that Mangan habitually showed his fine forehead. It was only when he lay dead, with head unsupported, that his forehead was properly seen; for his long hair, which usually fell over it, had then fallen back. This just criticism cannot be extended to the sensitively-pencilled sketch by Dora Sigerson (Mrs. Shorter), which has the tangled locks shadowing the brow, and the studious stoop of Haydons Wordsworth.
has the tone and the motion of Christabel. Mangan assimilated later a note of the pausing harp of 1797. We are told of the knight who won the bright and beauteous Genevieve that so soon as the story faltered on his lips, he
The song of the tree that the saw sawed through, says Mangan, after Coleridge,
And there is a palpable echo of two famous lines of Shelley, imported into Mangans version of Schillers Bis an des Atbers bleichste Sterne:
and a reminiscence of The Sensitive Plant, in a mention of the darnel and the mandrake as being unfit sister-growths for
Lampless is a favorite word with Mangan, who had admired it, no doubt, in Epipsychidion.
But the man who most powerfully swayed his budding art was not any of these. It seems hardly necessary to state that it was Lord Byron, Byron who once bestrode all young minds,
There is nothing more broadly Byronic in the magnific wails of that generation than a certain production of our poet in The Dublin Satirist of the fifth of December, 1835. It is amusing to note that the original authors name is given as Johann Theodor Drechsler, one of Mangans numerous sawdust dollies. He outgrew this influence, as he did every other. In his noble Pompeii, lingers the last tone caught from the Childe, already merging into something unlike itself. The Hymn for Pentecost, in The Irish Tribune for the eighth of July, 1848, is modelled naturally on Schillers and Byrons lines. It is a paean of the year of revolution; a plea that Innisfail might not swoon on, while all Europe was awakening from
Mangan had some theoretical knowledge of painting and of music. Though the practical sciences had small attraction for him, in psychic experimentalists, from Paracelsus to Lavater, he took deep interest. For the pages of Swedenborg he had lasting love. It is said of him that even as a boy, his reading could not be prescribed for him. He was a freebooter student, in spirituals and temporals. Of whatever other comfort he was bereft, he had fabulous revenues in his taste for the best books. Browsing habitually among the stalls of the Four Courts, when he could not command a library, Mangan grew intimate with the fathers of English literature. It is curious that he would not, or could not, appreciate the greatness of Burke. His choice of contemporaries was fallible. He cried up Godwins St. Leon, and its authors forty-quill power, and approved of Contarini Fleming, while the glorious Waverleys left him cold. He admired (may he be forgiven for these vagaries!) Mr. Rogers, and he did not spare jibes to so good a man as Mr. Southey. On the other hand, we find him quoting Balzac, Charles Lamb, and the young Tennyson, and affectionately addressing a friend who sought to uplift him as
at a time when Shelleys soul was still rated below par by the sagacious world which had not known him. Mangan thought, however, that there was a cloud on Shelleys character. It is pleasant to think of the small blonde sprite of 1811 tripping in and out of the Derby Square school, who may have looked more than once, unawares, on Shelleys boyish self as he went crusading with Harriet through the streets. For whatever Mangan saw or heard, it was from his own contracted orbit at home. He was acquainted with his Dublin
and it is doubtful if he were ever out of it, except on a dull six weeks visit to his uncles farm in Kiltale. Mangan says, however, that he found his Saw-mill in Rye Valley, Leixlip; and he dated some Italian translations from Liverpool, having apparently induced Pegasus to ford the Irish Sea for the occasion. Certain Italian poets were all his life very dear to him, Petrarca and Filicaja, and Metastasio in particular.
Two among them have written of their uncertainty, lasting for years, regarding their contributors political feeling; and they were very careful not to involve his name in their own hopes and perils. We are happy to think of him posing as a rebel and a reformer, although he counts for so little, and looks so oddly misplaced. He dedicated to his country a great deal of middling verse; he meant to consecrate to her new-born aspiration the energies in him which yet survived. Carried away by the warmth of personal allegiance, Mangan offered to become a member of the Irish Confederation, and, later, to follow John Mitchel to prosecution and exile: measures from which his wise leaders, as gentlemen endowed with humor, very gently dissuaded him. Towards 1842, he became touchingly altruistic. He even endeavored to give the benefit of his interest and criticisms to that incomparably well-edited paper, The Nation. Whatever he could get, in the way of blocked out translations from the Gaelic, he took, with eagerness, for his poetic purposes, and obtained, during his last year or two of life, considerable insight into his ancestral tongue. Such an ardor, whether or no its results can be called successful, had, in one apart from the common concerns of men, a distinctive moral beauty. So Thoreau, wedded to growing leaves and the golden hues ofr a squirrels eye, stood forth From his happy woods, and spoke promptly and aloud, in the ear of scandalized New England, for John Brown.
Like all Irishmen, Mangan was by nature something of a commentator on public affairs. Many were the squibs and epigrams from his boyish pen; and in The Belfast Vindicator he had all the fun he could out of the eternal English misrule. His highest powers, however, refused to be pressed into service, as the angelic standard-bearers of a cause. Instead of singing The Nations First Number (one knows not what he could have done, with such a lowflying materialistic title as that!), he heartily shouted it. The Irish National Hymn has emotion and dignity; A Highway for Freedom is a good song of its kind. But there are a dozen kindred themes from Mangans pen which nobody of frail endurance would wish to read twice. There is opulent speechifying, but little poetry, in The Warning Voice, The Peal of Another Trumpet (with its motto Irlande, Irlande, réjouis-toi from the prophecies of Mademoiselle Lenormand), and in the one strain typical of all, The Voice of Encouragement: A New Years Lay. The last begins oratorically enough:
It closes with a lofty abstract image, worthy of Mangan, and of the spirit of Young Ireland.
Nevertheless, Young Ireland must have found him a most useless person. His known genius and admired achievements floated him over these years of profound stress, when he produced next to nothing of any worth; and when his always gently-remote bearing must have had the value of an anachronism. Fortunately, there were those near at hand to supplant him, the instant he failed. It is not from Mangan that we have Who Fears to Speak of Ninety-Eight, and The Rapparees. Best of all, there was Thomas Osborne Davis, a patrician tribune, a most lovable and very perfect character, who made rhymes only as a means to an end, yet out-reached any rival whomsoever in that direction, as in others. With such splendid popular ballads of his as Fontenoy, The Sack of Baltimore, Owen Roe, OBrien of Ara, nothing of Mangan (least of all The Siege of Maynooth) can compete. Besides, unlike Davis, or his nearest followers, clear-headed young enthusiasts of culture and breeding, Clarence Mangan had no very definite idea of what was the desirable thing to say. While in aiming at the Repeal of the Act of Union, they were content to arouse a manly spirit in the long-oppressed peasantry, by dwelling on the antique glories of the isle and the names of her romantic heroes, nothing would serve Mangan, the one anointed poet among them, but prophecy, calamitous preaching, and the most prosy insistence on concrete agitation. Worse yet, he was inconsistent: his theories veered and wobbled. He begets generalities Continental in application:
And again, in Consolation and Counsel:
Will it do to compare such approved utterances with
Surely, no more drastic urging ever came from Mangans colleague, the young Speranza (Miss Elgee, afterwards Lady Wilde), in the famous Jacta Alea Est. Whether the mood of patience, or that of indignation, at given times, were best for Ireland, is a question apart; what is certain, is that the man who would encourage her simultaneously in both, cancels his value as a public personage, and may well, on the whole, go back to his gallipots.
It is simple truth to say that Mangans was a non-conducting mind, up to his very last years. He was in the sea of life enisled, unwitting of the passions of the human kind. This loneliness of his, this dream-meshed withdrawal, may not have been altogether a congenital condition; for indifferentism is a sure after-growth of the opium garden. Yet he was a born unit. He inhabited a Bagdad of his own, melancholy and fantastic, and with no gates opening on the world of action. No close observer of his earlier life and writing can find in them definite patriotic or religious ardor, or ardor of any sort except the literary. Had Mangan held deep-seated faiths, they could hardly have been in accord, at any rate, with those of The Dublin University Magazine, during the years he devoted to its enrichment. That able periodical reeked with the bigotry, arrogance, cruelty, and spite of the dominant social element in the Dublin of sixty years ago.
It was to end such a spirit of faction, i.e., denationalization, that Young Ireland (Protestant, Catholic, Dissenter: quis separabit?) arose. It endeavored to wake the people from an enchanted sleep, in the great name of Justice. It woke Mangan, among others: he put himself forth, in loyal and honorable energy, as an Irishman. He had all manner of new prospects to befit his new character; for he proposed to devote himself, almost exclusively, to the service of his country. Hence much lamentable prosody: the active poets meat is the contemplative poets poison. His translations continued to be, in varying degrees, effective; his original verse became, for the most part, monstrous flat and foggy. He belonged in a cell of his own; it was an artistic error ever to have left it. Yet in leaving it he proved, however feebly, that in his outworn consciousness was the manly spark, albeit he could not, out of his accustomed vaporous abstraction, speak, in the crowd, the efficacious word. He had been too long a recluse, a bookworm, and a leaf in the wind. Poor Mangan, impotently moralizing towards the last, is not the idler
but who that loves liberty as well as he loves lyric worth, can be loath to honor him for the fruitless change? It has been remarked concerning Mangan, that though full of personal hopelessness, he was a political optimist. He always dreamed, mystically enough, after the modern fashion, of a new era just about to dawn upon the world, and of the regeneration of mankind. (And he is a most compensatory singer: what though, is his ever-recurrent word.) Hungary failed in 1848, Sicily failed, Ireland failed. But there was much healthful havoc. With the final thunder of disparting thrones, dear to Mangans remote ear, he himself was fated to pass, unconsummated.
and, like Byron, he pays a lofty compliment to the single soul of Washington; but the possibility of his actually taking passage to Washingtons open-doored republic must have looked absurd even to himself. In fact, he never struck at anything, nor put it to the touch, for the major reason suggested by the Cavalier poet, that he feared his fate too much. His inertia was due mainly, of course, to the Circean drugs, and partially to his constitutional fragility, and a dull submissiveness which he took, perhaps, to be his duty. He had extreme charity for everybody but Clarence Mangan. It seems superfluous to say that he made no rebellious clutches at life, had no greed. Thinking once of domestic peace, debts discharged, and acknowledged personal value to a community, Goldsmith sighed in a letter to his brother: Since I knew what it was to be a man, I have not known these things. Worldly wisdom is not a gift left in Irish cradles. It was Mangans instinct, as it was Goldsmiths, to hitch his wagon to a star, and presently to discover, without any change of countenance, that his star had no legs, and so to stand, a spectacle for the laughter of men and gods. He was unfair to himself, we know. And the world was unfair to him, and to his industry. It is his chief negative merit that he was duped and driven to the wall. Such weakness, rather than the push which receives superstitious reverence, is advanced civilization; and yet it must not be recommended in hornbooks. Civilized Mangan was, nay, more: unlike Goldy, he might be called genteel. About the tight coat and the torn stock was an aroma as of wilted elegance, a deceptive aroma of what had never been. His manner had great charm; his voice and smile were winning. With a gliding grace, he wandered around the journalist offices of Trinity Street; after prolonged eclipse, the outcast apparition alighted again in the doorway, and heads of curious clerks bobbed up from the desks. He looked like the spectre of some German romance, said his most appreciative contemporary. He stole into The Nation office once a week, to talk over literary prospects; but if any of my friends appeared, he took flight on the instant. In earlier days, I had spent many a night, up to the small hours, listening to his delightful monologues on poetry and metaphysics; but the animal spirits and hopefulness of vigorous young men oppressed him, and he fled from the admiration and sympathy of a stranger as others do from reproach or insult. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy also speaks of him, during The Nation years, as so purely a poet that he shrank from all other exercises of his intellect. He cared nothing for political projects. He could never be induced to attend the weekly suppers, and knew many of his fellow-laborers only by name. And once more, as late as 1893, in the course of a private correspondence with a clerical friend and admirer: Some of the pleasantest evenings of my life were spent with Mangan in a room in the office of The Morning Register, I being then sub-editor. Mangan recited verse with singular power: not with the skill of an elocutionist, but with the elan of a man of genius; and his memory was inexhaustible. Great ceremonies, splendid feasts, and distinguished personages have faded away from my mind; but these nights with Mangan are still fresh and vivid. Sometimes, if Mangan talked at all, he indulged in a soft, desultory, uncanny soliloquy, in the ear of an old friend. It was easy to perceive that his being was all drowned in the blackest despair. ... He saw spirits, too, and received unwelcome visits from his dead father, whom he did not love. In spite of destiny he would anon be gay. There was nothing in him of the roisterer, but his speech was full of sudden witticisms, sly fooling which drew no blood. He could not forbear a bit of satire at the expense of his countrymen, as in his charming claim of the discovery of fire, by Prometheus, five thousand six hundred years ago, in Kilkenny! The grimmest poem he wrote has its play upon words, at which melancholy game he takes rank with Heine and Thomas Hood, invincibles like himself. Poor Clarence Mangan, with his queer puns and jokes, and odd little cloak and wonderful hat! so his old deskmate in the Ordnance Survey Office, Mr. W. F. Wakeman, paints him, not without a handsome reference to the huge inevitable umbrella. This implement, says Father Meehan, was carried like a cotton oriflamme in the most settled weather, and might, when partly covered by his cloak, easily be mistaken for a Scotch bagpipe. Never were clothes so married to a personality; they were as much a part of Mangan as his shining blue eyes, or his quiet, rapid, monk-like step. He had a brown caped cloak in which he seemed to have been born; and the strange antique dismaying hat aforesaid, fixed over his yellow silken dishevelled hair, is set down, to our great satisfaction (in the preface to ODalys Poets of Munster), as broad-leafed, steeple-shaped, and presumably built on the Hudibras model! Stooped, but not short; wan, thin, and bright; powdery with dust from the upper shelf; equipped with the scant toga precariously buttoned, the great goggles, and the king-umbrella of Great Britain and Ireland, such was Mangan, so ludicrous and so endearing a figure that one wishes him but a thought in Fieldings brain, lovingly handled in three volumes octavo, and abstracted from the hard vicissitudes of mortality.
belong to the same source as certain numbers artfully omitted from this book. But Mangan must have his range: awful when he draws himself up to the Pompeiian or the Karamanian attitude, and something else when he touches Ireland and the peasants famine-year, in
The majority of his fugitive verses were given to The Dublin Penny Journal, from 1832 to 1837; to The Irish Penny Journal, started in 1840, for which he wrote much; to The Nation and The United Irishman, and to The Dublin University Magazine, to which, in his intermittent fashion, he was faithful throughout. He is to be traced under various signatures: The Man in the Cloak, Monos, Lageniensis, Vacuus, The Mourner, A Yankee, Terras Filius, Wilhelm, J.C.M., Clarence, Clarence Mangan, and James Clarence Mangan. Throughout his whole literary lite of twenty years, says his patriot friend Mitchel, he never published a line in any English periodical or through any English bookseller. He never appeared to be aware that there was a British public to please. Mangan, modest by nature, had schooled himself to the neglect of the critics; no selfish zeal was able to fire him, and he would not have crossed the street to advance his interests. He says roguishly of one of his home-made German poets, Selbers toploftical disdain of human applause is the only great thing about him, except his cloak. It is just to reflect, also, that he kept from the agreeable ways of publicity in London, because his feelings and associations, so far as they were defined, were republican and hostile, and on the side of his country in her storms of fifty years ago. At any rate, he never burned the permissible candle to Mammon. London, and through her, posterity, are the losers; there would have been, sooner or later, no doubt of his welcome. He was not uncritical. He likened his genius to a mountain stream, and no analysis could be better, on the whole. His home is on untrodden highlands, in rough precipitous places, where only the Munster shepherd-boys pass with their flocks, and drink of the gushing water, and dream not but that all water tastes the same, the wide world over.
Miserable as Mangan was, he had comfort in his art. On this subject, where so many are loquacious enough, he is dumb. We know very little of his literary habits, save that he wrote fitfully, and often failed, in his earlier years, to get a farthings pay. He apologizes for gaps in his various Anthologiæ, once by pleading that he had mislaid the last leaves of his manuscript, again by saying that he had not of late found a peaceful hour in which to resume his task. He belied himself by letting men think that this irregularity was due to too convivial nights. On that subject he gives us an epigram.
He delights in creating oceans of this sort of thing (1835):
Or this (1839):
What he alleges, with truth, in a posthumous fragment, of Maginn, may be reverted to himself: He wrote alike without labor and without limit. He had, properly speaking, no style; or rather, he was master of all styles, though he cared for none. The legerdemain he shows in handling our flexible language, is hardly so admirable as it has been said, on excellent authority, to be. His compound rhymes, his unearthly opulent metres, are indeed extraordinary; but their effect is often gained by illegitimate means. Mangan has no philological scruples, no literary conscience, whatever. Does he need a rhyme, he invents a word, chooses one which is archaic, or gives to a known one some grotesque turn; he has prefixtures and elisions ever on duty; his musicianly ear cannot be relied upon to keep him always clear of English sibilations; he frequently loses his sense of the place and time to stop; and when he attempts recognized forms, as in the sapphics (with breath-catching rhymes!) of his own Lurelay, or the alexandrines of Freiligraths spirited
the result is somewhat fearsome, to say the least. While a poet subdues technical difficulties by overriding their laws, success so obtained must be ruled out of court. However, a born metrist he was, though a perverse one. From his very first appearances in print, as a young boy, he displays as his essential characteristics, imagination, and the greatest verbal dexterity. A good proportion of his poems are informal exhibitions by a virtuoso, a game of all miracles known to writing man. His best burlesque rivals Butlers and Thomas Hoods, which is the same as saying that it attains the front rank. But we cannot endure mediocre burlesque in the author of Dark Rosaleen. His prose, nearly always, is forced, and defaced with tedious puns. The painful mummery of some pages (of which, it is but fair to recall, their author had never the revision, and which should not have been, nor should be reprinted) is not representative of anything but the awkwardness that comes at intervals over Mangan, and stands between him and his angel,
As an essayist, despite some fine flashes, he is hardly worth preserving. Nor can it be denied that the same element of restlessness and strain, a sort of alloy from the frightful poverty and degradation nigh it, gets at times even into much of Mangans golden poetic work. Hippocrene may be inexhaustible, he says quaintly, but it flows up to Us through a pump. Did ever the Virgilian distinction spring from a houseless Muse, half-fed? The marvel, rather, is that the spirit in Mangan so often surmounts the most appalling obstacles known to the human mind.
Mitchel, who had unerring literary acumen, detected in him the conflict of deepest pathos and a sort of fictitious jollity. At times, he says, the poet breaks into would-be humor, not merry and hearty fun, but rather grotesque, bitter, Fescennine buffoonery, which leaves an unpleasant impression, as if he were grimly sneering at himself and all the world, purposely spoiling and marring the effect of fine poetry by turning it into burlesque, and showing how meanly he regarded everything, even his art wherein he lived and had his being, when he compared his own exalted ideas of art and life with the littleness of all his experiences and performances. Mitchel was thinking, in all probability, of the ruinous but very clever postlude to The Broken-Hearted Song, and the interpolation of Yankee dialect in a lyric raucously beginning,
To such spoliations his words apply. But there is a vast deal of facetious excellence in Mangan. Amid less felicitous drollery, the reader can take pleasure in a snatch of triumphant parody on Moore, and a recurring chorus which is a real gold nugget of comic opera:
Will it be believed that Mangan was a choice librettist, without his opportunity? Were he earning his living in the same walk to-day, Mr. W. S. Gilbert might look to his laurels. Some of his nonsense runs for all the world like a Gilbert and Sullivan topical song, in long rattling declamatory lines, of wit and animation all compact. Behold the exhumed precursor of The Mikado! The Gilbertian accent is unmistakably prefigured, in Mangans humorous hours. Sundry lines need but to put in an appearance at the Savoy Theatre, and be welcomed at once as long-lost fathers, by all the six-time A-major presto e staccato tribe modern playgoers know so well:
and so on; for there is no dearth of it. Let us take Metempsychosis as a fair specimen of Mangans achievement in this direction. It purports to derive its parentage from John Frederick Castelli, a very select wag, in Klauer-Klattowskis Popular Songs of the Germans.
As it is not within the scope of this book to amass Mangans comic poetry, we may cull here perhaps, in passing, three more characteristic samples of it, the last of which, once more, is a fantasia on the jolly German Burschenlied, which Mangan translated in conjunction with Gustav Schwabs almost equally good Rurscas Departure from College. This original epigram celebrates the authors personal appearance.
A FAST KEEPER
THE MAKING OF A FRESHMAN
For a riotous college-song this passes muster. (Innocent Foxling, never to have smoked before! Or was there an unholiest substance in that bowl?)
Since My Dark Rosaleen is perfect, its genesis cannot be uninteresting. The original literal English of it is to be found in the Egerton MSS. in the British Museum. The song (it was, rather, a group of traditional songs) figures in James Hardimans Irish Minstrelsy, or Bardic Remains of Ireland (1831). Hardimans translators, Messrs. Dalton, Furlong, Curran, and others, were learned gentlemen of much disinterestedness, giving their leisure to the work, who yet felt it necessary to condone, quite as if they belonged to the eighteenth century, the barbarity of the antique phrases, and to foist upon them modern smoothness and circumlocution. Roisin Dubh may or may not be, as has been claimed for it also, a personal and passionate old love-song. (To the peasantry of to-day it is that only.) The opening and the close seem to bear out strongly the theory held by most scholars, that it is the allegory of proscribed patriots, who dared not directly address their unhappy country. During this war of the northern clans against Elizabeth, as during the Jacobite insurrections, Ireland was, as the gallant song has it of the MacGregors, nameless by day. The allusions to Rome and Spain refer to aid promised from both quarters. The unadulterated prose poem follows, in full:
No fewer than three times did Mangan try his hand at this truly bardic fragment. The first experiment was a happy one: yet our skilled reviser was not satisfied with it.
Accordingly, we find a second version by Mangan in The Poets and Poetry of Munster from which we take the four last verses:
The theme had taken hold of Mangans imagination. Last of all, in 1845 or after, with the right mood of selection upon him, and with the warm consciousness at heart of the docility of the one style he had made his own, the poet fused together the best in the Roisin ballads, and broke into the inebriating music of My Dark Rosaleen.
It is, let us say, the most original of them all. The manner, too, is all Mangans; its noteworthiest feature being the rich recurrence of words and lines for which Roisin Dubh gives no warrant, and to whose examination we shall return when we come to speak of Poe. Between My Dark Rosaleen and the preceding lyrics made from Roisin Dubh by the same hand, is a difference: all the difference there can be between things cunningly wrought, and the thing divinely inspired.
Of this translation, and of two or three others from a kindred source, Mr. Maurice Leyne wrote in a supplement to The Nation, long ago: Their beauty can scarcely be exaggerated. To compare with them any actual remains which we have of the Jacobite poetry would be extravagant. They are what an Irish bard might have written if to the deep vague love of country, the longing, the dreaminess, the allegoric expressions of his art, were added all that modern culture can give of distinctness of feeling and sequence of idea. We have other poets who have caught with wonderful fidelity and felicity the Gaelic turns of thought and the structure of the language; but in Mangan the very Gaelic heart seems poured out. Mangan, however, was not always a successful conductor of sounds reaching him obliquely, through the stout persons ot Irish scholars. Certain numbers, such as OHusseys Ode, and Prince Aldfrids Itinerary, are modelled, with the most astonishing closeness, on faithful unrhymed renditions in The Penny Journal (1832) and The University Magazine (1834). But no critic can set Mangans flat and passionless Eileen Aroon beside the wonderful strain of Carroll ODaly, or prefer The Fair Hills of Eire, O, charming as that is, to Sir Samuel Fergusons
which has the advantage, in this instance, of greater literalness. And comparison is least possible between the two native translators, when it comes to the Boatmans Hymn, yet sung, in vernacular snatches, off the wild western coast. Not only is the Ferguson version a hundred-fold more pleasing, but it is, in equal measure, more Gaelic. It rushes along like the wind scooping the dusky Kerry sails.
How does Mangan start off with this finest of open-air themes?
And at the close, in the apostrophe to the Atlantic crag (which one poet salutes as
and the other, more suo, as
as well as in the whimsical outcry of the fishermen terrified at the speed of Wherry aroon it is easy to decide which translator attains to the sailor-like and singable, and which remains merely literary. I cannot think that Sir Samuel Ferguson ever yielded, in power of interpretation, to Mangan, in any single case where they chose to handle the same originals. Despite it, we have not from him, nor could we have had, a Dark Rosaleen. Mr. Maurice Leyne, in the illuminating article quoted a moment ago, speaks of Mangans as a typically Irish temperament: a temperament, according to another sociologist, which makes both men and nations feeble in adversity, and great, gay, and generous in prosperity. Is he so generic? It is impossible to think of any class or race of Mangans. Like Swaran in Ossian, he brings his own dark wing, whereas some readers have asked for references, antecedents, certificates. Or perhaps, to say that such a one is Celtic, is to put him back among the indescribables. One Wilson, a phrenologist, made in the February of 1835 a professional examination of Mangans beautifully-shaped head, with this recorded result. Constructiveness is hardly developed at all; on which account he would not have a genius for mechanism or invention generally, but he would possess the power of magnifying, embellishing, and beautifying in the highest degree. A tendency to exaggerate and amplify would pervade whatever he undertook. Here we have, disguised as a communication from the physical sciences, a remarkable bit of literary criticism. The verdict is perfectly true, though opium had helped to make it so. Mangan was not least Irish (Oriental Irish) in this, that he loved expansions and dilutions, and could not forbear yoking quantity with quality. A hypochondriac too odd to be susceptible of classification, he is
And eccentricity itself is a purely Celtic property. Strange that his genius is happier on Saxon than on Celtic ground!
Meines Herz Richter he calls John Paul. Mangans only book published during his lifetime was the Anthologia Germanica, which, having run its course in a magazine, was printed (without its prose passages) at Gavan Duffys expense, in 1845. Some of the lyrics included have a transmitted truthfulness, as of a ray through clear glass. Even Schillers great note is echoed, now and then, with absolute inerrancy. There are few finer illustrations of aural sensitiveness in a translator than Mangan gives us in the eleventh and twelfth stanzas of Der Gang nach dem Eisenhammer (The Message to the Foundry).
The Maid of Orleans finds its very self again in Mangans English; so does The Fisher; Rückerts enchanting Das Eine Lied (Nature More than Science), Uhlands Lebe wohl, lebe wohl, mein Lieb, and Alexander and the Tree: these wed literalness to beauty, in their own established metre. Half a dozen times, he so touches the achievement set before him; nay, rivals it, as he certainly does in the magical simile about the piping notes of the coppice bird, closely inwrought with Kerners song of praise to Uhland for his book: a song really as fresh and rushing in Mangan as in the original, and far more prodigal of music. Many pages are simple, spontaneous, choice. But when all is said, the Anthologia is a kaleidoscope, rather than a mirror. The majority of these German poems, being what the Irish ones are not, the children of conventional art, suffer more from Mangans swervings and strayings. He treats his great victims pretty much as Burns, with every justification, treats the floating Scotch ballads: he adjusts, he reverses; into his old material he infuses a novel substance. In scarcely any instance is he content to keep a poems given title; and upon it he can foist foreign matter, with an almost criminal restlessness. If he need not confess, with the Sir E. B. L. of Bon Gaultier:
at least he may well be pardoned for his alltoo-generous doings elsewhere: for Clarence Mangan seldom detracts from the Muse he professes to follow; his unfaithfulness is in quite another category. Having satisfied you with what exquisite attentiveness he can follow his exemplars, he hastens to show how variously, how cunningly, and how effectually he can run away from them. The single tact of his having transformed the hard-hearted Kunegund of Die Begrüssung auf dem Kynast (The Ride Around the Parapet), into the Lady Eleanora von Alleyne, trumpeting her to and fro with splendid corroborations, is indicative enough of his habits. Mangan takes under protest, though his endeavor is always to make you think him a great assimilator and economist; but he is a prodigal giver. He hates the niggardly hand, as much as Horace does, and he cares not a straw how much of himself he throws away at his game of setting up a poet in whom he has no special interest, and who is often his inferior.* This is, indeed, as a severe reviewer named it at the time, a vicious system; and it cannot be justified by the undeniable fact that Mangan imports into his subject an illicit beauty. The Germans who had most verbal compression, who are most set upon a calm statement of things, are those who suffer most from Mangans exuberant hullabaloo. Yet sometimes in himself, when he is improvising, and does not feel bound to keep step for step, is a compression very remarkable, and a calm more profound than their own.
The best known, and certainly the loveliest, of his shorter German translations is Rückerts ghazel, Und dann nicht Mehr. Even here, where he keeps, physically, rather close to his pensive model, he adds metaphor after metaphor, many a lyrical wail, and a heart-stopping pathos all unwarranted and new; he seems to blight and then revivifv everything he touches.
Scores of times, as in Wetzels Sebnsucht, itself very like Mignons immortal song of the far-off land and of the spiritual longing to turn thither, Mangan deliberately transposes and varies his theme. He matches Wetzels graceful eight lines with twenty-five of his own, melodiously overlapping, and of extraordinary sweetness, in which
with a persistence remote as the imploring star itself from good Wetzels imagination. Still more transformed are the wild and moving measures of The Last Words of Al Hassan, which purport to belong to one Heyden, a name unfamiliar to our ears, and to be found in Wolffs Haussebatz, the repertory of an incredible quantity of middling poetry. Mark the artful depreciation of the German volume, as if to fright a possible speculator in Manganese! If any one hungers for a thorough insight into Mangans method, he cannot do better than to open the bulky Haussebatz (in all of whose editions, however, Hassan, by Friedrich August von Heyden, does not figure), and read over the six stanzas of stout commonplace which contain the straightforward remarks of a worsted Bedouin. Not a reference in them does Mangan reproduce, except the profaned Kaaba, the blackringleted unfaithful mistress, the desert wind.
He throws away Heydens deserted tents, the captive women, the wounded and weary horses, the scattered sheep and shepherd: all the imagery of war and defeat which carry out a pictorial and romantic tradition. What he substitutes is so utterly alien to these that no human being could refer it to Heydens Hassan at all, unless Mangan had chosen to indicate the source of his inspiration. Heyden ends:
This is worth while being considered as the sub-structure of
Mangans Hassan, moreover, is richly embroidered with geographical detail. He had a fine sense for the uses of proper names, and displayed vague attractions for the region afterwards surveyed by Mr. Matthew Arnold, whose yellow Oxus and star-lighted Aral Sea no reader of this generation is likely to forget. But à???ß???, unerring nicety founded on forethought and research, was not among Mangans natural virtues. He invents neighborhoods and coasts; he couples cheerfully towns two thousand miles apart, and even reaches over into another continent for a gem of a substantive to deck his languorous Asian lines. But poetry, after all, is so much finer than gazetteers! he seems to insinuate.
The truth is, Clarence Mangan is no translator at all. He is dominated by his own genuine erratic force, which throve under evil conditions, and had no clear outlet; and he cannot contain the ebullition of his natural speech even in the majestic presence of Goethe. His mind is not serviceable; he can give an able and courteous co-operation only when the demigod chances to agree with his native fire. The most striking internal evidence that he had not in him the first instinct of the translator, is that he approaches Heine (whose abrupt beauty, if indeed it be conveyable at all, Mangan in his trustier mood was curiously well fitted to convey into English), in order to appraise him as darkly diabolical, and to deplore his melancholy misdirection of glorious faculties. As it was, Mangan wasted on the dreams of anybody else the time he was forbidden to devote to the inspirations of his own brain. It was his misfortune, his punishment also, that with the early loss of enthusiasm, and that true tranquil perception of the beautiful, which, as he himself feelingly says of an elder writer, a life led according to the rules of the divine law alone can confer on man, there came an autumnal decadence: a sinking from the exercise of the creative faculty to that of the critical; a relinquishment of the highest intellectual mood, which was his birthright, for that of the spectator, the sceptic, the jaded philosopher. He recanted his belief in his own powers, and having done that, he held a false but consistent way. The things he accomplished in literature have the look of accidents and commentaries, as he wished; the pride of his whole shadowed career was to figure in a mask unworthy of him. In such a spirit of evasion he took to his inexplicable trade of translating: accepting a suggestion, and scornfully elaborating; it, or ironically referring to the gardens of Ispahan his own roses, whose color seemed too startling for the banks of the Liffey.
with his personal visions. He expressly states somewhere that he dislikes the Orientals for their mysticism. Meanwhile, on a fine mystical principle, he approximates them, he has sympathies with them. He has all the sense of awe and horror, the joy in action and the memory of action, the bright fatalism, of a Mussulman. Whenever he puts on a turban, natural to him as was the himation to Keats, mischief is afoot. He did not wear it for the grandeur of the thing, like a greater poet, poor Collins, who, in his last days, confessed to the Wartons his suspicion that his Oriental Eclogues were, rather, his Irish Eclogues. Translations so feasible! Mangan exclaims in a jolly passage wherein he blames other bards who do not dedicate themselves, for the hungry publics sake, to that excellent diversion. Lamb himself had no more fun out of Ritson and juhn Scott the Quaker, than Mangan has out of his poems by Selber, with notes by Dr. Berri Abel Hummer. The nomenclature of some of his puppets is quite too danng. Berri Abel, Ben Daood, and Bham-Booz-eel are bad enough, but Baugtrauter is notorious. He declared continually that his translations were not rigidly exact, or he refused altogether to gratify the curiosity of his audience. It is the course that liberal feeling dictates, he says, with a strict humor worthy of Newman, to let them suppose what they like. And all the time he is enriching them and cheating himself, adorning the annals of reversed forgery, and cutting off from the circulation of his mother-tongue some of its most original accents. He produced several Ottoman proverbs, in the September of 1837, which are the everyday saws of our western civilization served with spice. Reduced to their lowest terms, these mystical mouthings grin at one like a bottled imp. Speech is Silver, but Silence is Golden, they say; Enough is as good as a Feast; The Pot calls the Kettle Black; A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush! Mangan took tremendous delight in throwing dust in devoted eyes. It is within reason that in his roaring stanzas dedicated To the Ingleeze Khafir, Djaun Bool Djenkinzun, the dear and dunderheaded gentleman addressed might miss the point altogether. It would not be so conceivable that he hoodwinked also the Trinity Fellows at his elbow, were it not for two considerations. In the first place, nobody was especially well acquainted with him; he was intangible. As none could affirm with authority whether he had but one coat in his wardrobe, or where and how he kept his distressing relatives; so none could track his elusive mental habits, and say, This knowledge, and not that, has he acquired. Again, specialists do not grow on every bush, even in Trinity. The names of authors whom he cited, Mehisi, Kemal-Oomi, Baba Khodjee, Selim-il-Anagh, Mustafa Reezah, Burhan-ed-Deen, Mohammed Ben Osman, Ben Ali Nakkash (may their tribe decrease!) were not illuminating; neither were the mottoes in good Arabic, but somewhat irrelevant to their purpose, with which he prefaced his apocrypha. He attributes one strain to a sixteenth-century Zirbayeh, another to Lameejah, a third to a phonetic nightingale called Waheedi. He abstracts from a manuscript in possession of the queen of Transoxiana one of the loveliest of his songs, and fathers it upon Al Makeenah, a fighting bard of his fancy. Once he was brought to task for concealing himself under the cloak of Hafiz, whereupon he replied that any critic could discern that the verses were only Hafiz! His custom was to leave Hafiz alone, with Saadi and Omar, these being persons somewhat familiar to the general. The poets he courts are more preciously private to imself than ever Cyril Tourneur was, years ago, to the elect. Some of their names stand out memorably bright, and only just beneath those of the splendid phantom Mirza Schaffy, and the Haji-Abdu el-Yezdi, who had some reality so long as Sir Richard Burton lived. The attention of a competent Orientalist may never have been drawn to specifications which would at once throw the unwary off the trail; but it is likely that they passed with modest minor scholars who would have suspected anybody of this roguery sooner than innocent bespectacled Mangan.
It is as a son of the Prophet that he claims his full applause. Al Hassan is more than equalled by The Wail and Warning of the Three Khalendeers (which Thackeray would have relished had he known it), by The Time of the Barmecides, the vehement Howling Song of Al Mohara, and others, drawn, like these, from the impossible Persian, and many of which are only to be found scattered up and down the capital-lettered yellow pages of extinct provincial journals.
It is more than likely that his taste for Eastern poetry, gratified under such ironic conditions, was in Mangan a reaction from the little he knew of the bardic antiquities of his own Ireland; for he appears to have been much attracted to Vallenceys most tenable theory that the Milesians were the lost tribe of Israel. The all-but-identity of the typical Turkish wail:
with the more melodious Gaelic
fascinated him; and he used both rather too freely. Working on Shane OGolains Lament in 1848 he took fire, at three oclock of a Friday morning, and resolved to give as good as he got. I will shortly send you, he writes to his patron, a funeral wail from the Turkish, on the decease of one of the Sultans. The spirit of the composition closely resembles what we meet with in similar Irish poems. (Marry come up! so it must, slyest of Mangans.) This was probably the Elegy for Sulieman the Magnificent, a fairly unimpressive production. With his genius for analogies, the translator found ancient Irish, at second-hand, as Oriental as need be. Adjurations, apostrophes, superlatives, monotones, reiterations, vague but bold colors, belonged, as outstanding features, to both languages; and to all these characteristics his own habits of speech and thought were congenial.
What Matthew Arnold said of the Celtic literature in general, may apply to Mangans share in it. It is not great poetical work; but it is poetry, with the air of greatness investing it. His Eastern fictions, like most of his Western ones, deal usually with a mood of reminiscence and regret, and they have the arch and poignant pathos in which English song is not rich. The mournful echo of days gone by, the light tingeing a present cloud from the absent sun, are everywhere in Mangans world. He looks back forever, not with moping, but with a certain shrewd sense of triumph and heartiness. He embraces the tragical to-day, like Pascals crushed and thinking reed of mankind, parce quil sait quil meurt, et lavantage que lunivers a sur lui: lunivers nen sait rien. He delivers a lament as if it were a cheer; in his strange temperament they blend in one. It is clear to posterity that this looking back on rosy hours is a sham, a poets fantasy. What idyllic yesterday cradled and reared so ill-adventured a soul? Out of his imagination his rich Bagdad never existed; though it be cherished there as only the solitary and disregarded intelligence can cherish its ideal, he is lord of it yet, and can bid it vanish, at one imperious gesture of relinquishment. Down tumbles Bagdad! The crash thereof is in the public ears; and who will refuse to believe that there was a Clarence Mangan who knew something of the blessed Orient, something, too, of felicity, even though it passed?
he proceeds to explain the second appearance of his favored lyric. It was published some months back, but in such suspicious company that it probably remained unread, except by the very few persons who have always believed us too honorable to attempt imposing on or mystifying the public. We now, therefore, take the liberty of reintroducing the poem to general notice, embellished with improvements, merely premising that if any lady or gentleman wishes to have a copy of the original (or, indeed, of any originals of our oversettings), we are quite ready to come forward and treat: terms cash, except to young ladies. With talk of such vain and transparent nonsense, Mangan attempts to parry his rightful praise. He would have us think that to his laborious searching and transcribing, with the help, as he says, of punch and patience, we are indebted for the existence of his finest work. But the punch is direct from Castalys well, and the patience covers the rapturous drudgery known to all true art. What held him back from acknowledging his own homespun glories was a trait both of shyness and of perversity. He must have been conscious that his rhythms were nothing short of innovations. Nearly everything which bears his name has a voluptuous dance-measure which no one had written before: a beauty so novel and compelling, that it is remarkable it has lacked recognition. With characteristic shrinking, Mangan sealed his charter of merit to supposititious ancients and aliens. Perspicacious readers are besought to consider it less likely that in one poet was a voice of such individuality that it breaks forth through a hundred disguises, than that bards resident through the ages in the four zones, Jew and Gentile,
are the co-heirs of the self-same astonishing style. Wits were at work on him, even as on a rebus, long before he died. Some anonymous writer, aware of a new sound when he heard it, addressed to him an apostrophe not idle, since it shows that the sagacious race of mousers abides always and everywhere, and that, according to a metaphysical truism made famous by President Lincolns homely adaptation of it, no one person can deceive all:
Mangans shibboleth is the refrain. The refrain is characteristic, in some shape or other, of all old poetry. It belongs to Judea and Greece, no less than to northern France, to the England of the Percy Reliques, and the Persianized Germany of Mangans study. After a long lapse, it had its first full modern use in The Ancient Mariner, and in the peculiar cadence of all Coleridges stops and keys. The fact that at divers periods, fashions of thoughts and speech infect the air, is a vindication ot many laurelled heads; for it is a theory which pinches nobody. Almost on the same morning, within twenty years of Coleridges retirement to Highgate, Mrs. Browning, Mangan, and Edgar Allan Poe were involuntarily conspiring to fix and perpetuate a poetic accident, destined to its subtlest and not wholly unforeseen collateral development in Rossetti. Among these, Mrs. Browning invented and foreshadowed much, but with a light hand. Poes ringing of the word-changes is, on the other hand, so bold, that any successor who approximates his manner is sure now of smiling detection and discouragement. Whatever recalls
is all very fine, we say, but it will not do; the thing was done to perfection once: we must let Poe reign in his own kingdom. Let us have a care lest we are letting Poe reign in Mangans kingdom. The unmistakable mark of Poes maturer poetry, the employment of sonorous successive lines which cunningly fall short ot exact duplication, belong also to Mangan, in the same degree. There is this of his, for instance, in the reverie of the wayfarer beside the river Mourne, who longs for everlasting rest delayed, and who hears, in answer, a prophetic voice from the martyred tree in the saw-mill:
And one verse out of the powerful many which bear the burden of Karaman! will serve to illustrate the point yet more clearly:
Were it not for the imperfect rhyme in the Saw-Mill stanza, any critic would attribute all the lines cited to Poe, both for manner, and for perfect mastery of ghastly detail.
It happens that the Muse over in Dublin has the advantage of priority. Poes maiden work has not the lovely tautology which has since been associated with his name. Judging by the pains which he took to dissect the rainbow of his genius in his Philosophy of Composition, he would have us assured that The Raven was his earliest experiment in the values of that saying-over or singing-over which, like a looped ribbon, flutters about the close of so many of his posthumous verses. Moreover, The Raven was only that and nothing more. Poes own thrilling tale of Ligeia, dating from 1838, provided every one of the properties essential to the effect of The Raven, and even the same psychological situation. It is not inconceivable that the prose was converted into poetry, exclusively for the purpose of trying a rash harmonic experiment on an approved instrument. At any rate, the element in the great lyric which was not already in Ligeia, is precisely this haunting iteration of sweet sounds. The Raven was first published anonymously in the January of 1845. It spread like wildfire in America, and reached London the next year. In a letter to Poe, dated April, 1846, Miss Elizabeth Barrett says: Your Raven has produced a sensation, a fit of horror, here in England. Some ot my friends are taken by the fear ot it, and some by the music. The English parodies of it, which would certify that it was popular and familiar, began in 1853. Ulalume appeared in Coltons Review, in 1847; and it may be considered as the perfect blossom of Poes acquired tendencies. Lenore, first intoned as A Pecan (1831), came out in Mr. James Russell Lowells journal, The Pioneer, in 1843. It is instructive to observe that it has not, there, a single touch of the repetitions which now give it such memorable glamour; the repetitions were superadded later and on second thought. Now Mangan, from 1839 and 1840 on, bestowed on almost everything he wrote the curious involved diction in question. Two poems of his in particular, which have mere extrinsic value, may therefore yield up their opening stanzas as arch-specimens. The Winniger Winehouse, we are told, is slightly improved from Hoffmann of Fallersleben. The Kiosk of Moostanzar-BUlah has no history.
The same emphatic notes occur in The Three Talismans, The Wayfaring Tree, The Saw-Mill, and The Karamanian Exile; in The Last Words of Al Hassan, and in the very different and very beautiful Time of the Barmecides; in The Wail and Warning of the Three Khalendeers, and in My Dark Rosaleen; and something not far from them in Night is Nearing, Twenty Golden Years ago, The Time ere the Roses were Blowing, and The Howling Song. Indeed, it is difficult to quote from him at all and not detect the accent associated forever with Poe. Under cover of his spurious Orientalism, Mangan allowed himself much autobiographical utterance; and he found it convenient, as an Oriental middleman, to introduce, and to fully develop, without suspicion from outsiders, his ornate original da capo. Indeed, one sometimes feels quite certain that he was a practising Mussulman only for the sake of it. In The Dervish and the Vizier, Mangan is his own superexcellent parodist: here he breaks into a ridiculous exaggeration of the refrain, in a comic narrative of great gusto. Having once mastered his invention, Mangan, in the end, came near being mastered by it. He imported a sort of stammering into many of his renderings from foreign languages, to the conceivable amazement of dead authors; and the catch-word of a stanza was often multiplied until it attained the numerical importance of Mozarts triumphant Amens. No one will deny that the Schwertlied itself gains by this vandalism. Poe, in this respect, is merely Manganesque. In The Dublin University Magazine, during the years when Poe was attaining his zenith of success, figure successive specimens of the unchanged art of the man who had the start of him by at least five years; for The Barmecides was in print in 1839, and The Karamanian Exile, a finished model of its kind, was contemporary with the as yet cisatlantic Raven, and the predecessor of Ulalume, Lenore, Eulalie, For Annie, and the rest. Coleridges is too great a name by which to measure, and Mrs. Browning is an influence apart, when one comes to scrutinize the neckand-neck achievements of Mangan and Poe.
Mr. Joseph Skipsey openly implies that Poe fell across Mangans experimental measures during his own editorial and journalistic career. The proposition might have more weight, coming from a more cautious pen; yet it is a practicable guess, did one care to entertain it. The Americans thrift and hardihood, his known accomplishment of buccaneering, beneficent as it chanced to be in the application, helped him to adopt and bring into notice any reform perishing in obscure hands. Thus he supplemented the octosyllabic cadences of Lady Geraldines Courtship in
with a patrician aggressiveness never to be confounded with common theft. On the other side, no arraignment of this sort can be brought against poor chivalrous Mangan which would not be a chronological absurdity. Coleridge the forerunner might have pushed his verbal practice farther; but he lacked the sensationalism which is a noble ingredient if used sparingly and in season, and of which Mangan and Poe, beyond all doubt, were possessed. Now, it is not to be forgotten that one of these two lived and died, as it were, in a hole; that at no time was he in the current of events, or so placed, withdrawn in the violet shadow of the Wicklow Hills, that he could and would scan even the near English horizon. It was the business of the other to sit in a watch-tower,
Poe, if it may be said respectfully, was what the Gypsies call a jinney-mengro: one-who-knows-what- is-up-and-cannot-be-gulled. Under circumstances comparatively kind, from an official chair, and with the bravery which is half the battle, he bequeathed to the soil of English literature a hitherto exotic beauty. It is unnecessary to ask whether he learned his lyric latitude of phrase from The Dublin University Magazine. But Clarence Mangan, shrinking like the Thane before the supernatural All hail hereafter! is the true founder, nevertheless, of the most picturesque feature in modern verse.
While Poe links himself for good with his immediate predecessors in The Haunted Palace, The City by the Sea, and the opening of Al Aaraaf, and so falls gracefully into his dynastic place, Mangan has wayward secondary leanings, sometimes to the whimsical, affectionate temper of Béranger, sometimes to the bare strength of the Elizabethans themselves, as in his lines where Fate
a line as unlike as possible to
He is addicted to compound words; and in such mongrel usages as youthhood, gloomsomely, and aptliest, he makes straight for the pitfalls dug for the radiant intelligence of Mrs. Browning. Poe is too dainty, airy, amber-bright, for sophomoric blunders, for wretched puns, for breathless haste, for dactyls maimed and scarred in the wars. He never makes Mangans lunges; his every oesural pause is fixed by conclave of the Muses. And there is over all his entrancing work an air of incomparable self-attentiveness, a touch of satisfied completion, as of a coquette blen chaussée, bien gantée. The others charm is less urban:
The two Celts had much, very much, in common; Poes Attic taste, sprung from his fortunate training, is responsible for most of the difference. To affirm of him, as has often been done, that he worshipped beauty with his whole soul; that he loved the occult sciences, the phrenologists, and the old mystics; that his existence was but an affecting struggle with the adversaries of darkness; even that he was of a frail physique, his forehead high and pale, the lower part of his face sensitive and dejected; this is to describe Mangan equally well. They had kindred dreams; they were haunted by the same loathing of the dishonor of the grave; they died, under almost identical circumstances of pain and mystery, in the same year. Their respective sense of humor was unevenly apportioned. In point of achievement, too, or of the forces which make achievement possible, they are hardly to be compared. Poe was ever the artist; his imagination was not only sumptuous, but steadfast; his utterances were fewer, and had finality. In the moral contrast, it is the Irish poet who gains. Poe, with his manifold gifts (if we may pervert the terms of Lambs theological thesis not defended or oppugned, or both, at Leipsic or Gottingen) was of the highest order of the seraphim illuminati who sneer. He nursed grudges and hungered for homage; he was seldom so happy as in a thriving quarrel. Mangan was a pattern of sweet gratitude and deference, and left his art to prosper or perish, as Heaven should please.
In 1803, the year of Mangans birth, Mrs. Hemans printed her first verses, and Moore, already a popular young minstrel, was commissioned to be Admiralty Registrar at Bermuda. The Lyrical Ballads had sunk, softly as a snowflake, into the earth one twelvemonth before. Mangans early youth was the flowering-time of Keats, Shelley, and Byron; and he was writing for penny journals while the new minor notes, Hoods, Praeds, Moores, were filling the air. He died, not companionless, with Emily Bronte, Hartley Coleridge, and Thomas Lovell Beddoes, in 1849: three spirits of lavish promise, defrauded and unfulfilled like his own, yet happier than he, inasmuch as they have had since many liegemen and rememberers. Let him come forward at last in a quieter hour, with his own whimsical misgiving manner, or with questions pathetically irrelevant, as one whom the fairies had led astray:
He has been, for a half-century, wandering on the dark marge of Lethe. It will not do, as yet, to startle him with gross applause. Otherwise, his gratified editor would like to repeat, introducing Clarence Mangan, the gallant words with which Schumann once began a review of the young Chopin: Hats off, gentlemen: a Genius!”