Tag Archives: Gaelic poets translated

The Life and Writings of James Clarence Mangan (O’Donoghue, 1897). Hours With Eminent Irishmen (McCarthy, 1886)

David James O’Donoghue, a renowned editor of Irish literature circa 1900, penned a thoroughgoing biography, interwoven with verse, prose, reminiscences, and letters, of the “strangely neglected” poet Clarence Mangan.

“The purpose of the present work is not merely to do something to make the poet better known—or to clear up the more apparent than real mystery of his life—the writer’s aim is to also attempt a survey of Mangan’s wonderful genius—to point out its ramifications, to show all its heights and depths.”

The Life and Writings of James Clarence Mangan by D. J. O’Donoghue (Dublin, 1897)




“His comrades were strange shadows, the bodyless creations wherein his ecstasy was most cunning. Phantoms trooped to him from the twilight land, lured, as Ulysses lured the ghosts from Hades, by a libation of blood.”

Hours With Eminent Irishmen and A Glimpse of Irish History by Justin Huntly McCarthy (New York, 1886)







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Essays in Prose and Verse by J. Clarence Mangan. The Prose Writings of James Clarence Mangan.

More library books in facsimile — vital to any store of Manganiana.

“Every scrap of writing from Mangan’s pen, or remotely relating to him, deserves to be rescued from the countless contingencies to which manuscripts are exposed.”  – Charles Patrick Meehan, C. C.

Essays in Prose and Verse by J. Clarence Mangan. Edited by C. P. Meehan, C. C. (Dublin, 1884)




“What was to be done ? Hastily to discuss the remainder of my wine, to order a fresh bottle, and to drink six or eight glasses in rapid succession, was the operation of a few minutes. And oh, what a change ! Cleverly, indeed, had I calculated upon a glorious reaction. Words I have none to reveal the quiescence of spirit that succeeded the interior balminess that steeped my faculties in blessed sweetness ; I felt renovated, created anew ! I had undergone an apotheosis ; I wore the cumbrous habiliments of flesh and blood no longer ; the shell, hitherto the circumscriber of my soul, was shivered ; I stood out in front of the universe a visible and tangible intellect, and beheld, with giant grasp, the key that had power to unlock the deep prison which enclosed the secrets of antiquity and futurity !”

(“An Extraordinary Adventure in the Shades”)


The Prose Writings of James Clarence Mangan (Centenary Edition) Edited by D. J. O’Donoghue





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Mangan editions edited by John O’Daly, C. P. Meehan, and John Mitchel

Library books in facsimile; edited and introduced by personal acquaintances of the poet Clarence Mangan.



“The English versions, by the ill-fated but lamented Clarence Mangan, are all in the same metre with the originals.”

Third Edition (edited by John O’Daly):



Third Edition (edited by C. P. Meehan):


Fourth Edition (edited by C. P. Meehan):





Copyright Edition, Dublin:


New York 1859 edition:






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Monuments to Mangan (The Irish Times)

A review article by the poet John Montague saluting Clarence Mangan in prospect of his bicentenary on May Day of 2003 ; published in The Irish Times on Saturday, April 26, 2003.


Another Veilèd Prophet utters a mystic speech,

To be translated only by a future age . . .

With his bicentenary on May Day, James Clarence Mangan rises up like some Gothic creature, glowing, from his grave. I am referring to the many volumes of The Collected Works, the four of poetry and the two of prose, which have been published by the Irish Academic Press, along with a fine biography, and bibliography. These are essential reading not only for departments of Irish literature, but also for Irish history as well, because Mangan was the most piercing voice of his epoch. Even the periodical publication of his poems and prose pieces, such as ‘The Woman of Three Cows’, published in an Irish Penny Journal of 1840, or the appearance of ‘Siberia’ and ‘Dark Rosaleen’ in The Nation, in the gloomy year of 1846, are testimonies to the survival of the creative spirit during the darkest days of our history.

Though sometimes he sounds like a voice from a shroud. His poems, especially in the 1840s, have an almost monotonous melancholy, which seems like the distillation from some weeping cloud crossing the stricken landscape of mid-19th-century Ireland. Or, to change the metaphor, a funeral bell knelling endlessly.

And towards the West at first they marched,

Then towards the South,

Those endless FUNERALS, till the sky o’erhead,

As one vast pall, seemed overarched

With blackness, and methought the mouth

Of Hades had cast up its Dead!

Published in the United Irishman in March 1849, ‘The Funerals’ might seem to sound some ultimate note of gloom, but Mangan haunts the same darkness in ‘The Famine’ a few months later, in the same periodical.

Despair? Yes! For a blight fell on the land –

The soil, heaven-blasted, yielded food no more –

The Irish serf became a Being banned –

Life-exiled as none ever was before.

But then this “piercing wail”, while indeed a lament for all Ireland, also has its source in Mangan’s own psyche. An early poem, composed in competition with other Dublin wags, begins: “Come get the black, the mourning pall . . .” And one of his few prose pieces of first intensity, his fragmentary Autobiography, reprinted by the Dolmen Press in 1968, describes a blighted childhood: “In my boyhood I was haunted by an indescribable feeling of something terrible”. This text was probably the germ for Tom Kinsella’s fine gloomy poem on Mangan: it is as if, as a child, Mangan had suffered the kind of “vastation” of the spirit to which Ted Hughes ascribes the genius of Emily Dickinson.

Mangan depicts his father terrorising his wife, and gleeful that his children try to flee like mice at his approach. This was a father who squeezed the life out of his entire family, “a human boa-constrictor”. Mangan sought refuge in books and solitude: “I isolated myself in such a manner from my own nearest relatives that with one voice they all proclaimed me mad.” Yet these early methods of escape – solace in books and a disdain for the outer world – were clearly not completely successful, for Mangan also describes a “feeling of impending calamity”.

It was in his boyhood “that the seeds of that moral insanity were developed within me which afterwards grew up into a tree of great altitude”. Convinced of his waywardness and eccentricity, but compelled to seek work as a scrivener, at which he laboured long hours for low pay, the coarseness of his colleagues afflicted him: “My nervous and hypochondriacal feelings almost verged upon insanity.”

Once again the serpents seethe: “I seemed . . . to be shut up in a cavern with serpents and scorpions . . . which . . . discharged their slime and venom over my person.”

Perhaps his greatest poetry came when his blasted psyche was mirrored by a blighted landscape, when political and personal suffering finally met in his verse.

From the sordid scrivener’s life, Mangan sought relief in scribbling. The buffoonery of his early constitutional satire, ‘Our Quackstitution’, with its gross word play – “the House of Hangover”, and “Longdulldreary” for Londonderry – seems tedious, like the whimsy of ‘A Treatise on a Pair of Tongs’. Such prose could be seen as an ancestor of the exuberant linguistic lunacy of writers like Myles. But it does not seem as natural to Mangan’s psyche as his ventures into the Gothic, especially The Man in the Cloak, which is already a version of a story of Balzac, intended as a sequel to Melmoth the Wanderer. And of course Mangan worshipped Maturin. As a child, he followed Maturin along the streets, and later would consider that haggard, solitary, oddly dressed figure an alter ego in eccentricity, and perhaps also in genius.

There is a curious moment in The Man in the Cloak where one of the bank secretaries is described as “a flippant litterateur, who translated German poetry and wrote German stories for the magazines . . .” How much German did Mangan really know, and where, indeed, had he learnt it? He certainly knew enough to act as tutor to some pretty Dublin ladies. And his voluminous Anthologia Germanica produced the only book published in his lifetime, German Anthology: A Series of Translations (1845).

When I was compiling my Faber Book of Irish Verse, I included poems which I then took to be original, but now discover were copied from the German. For instance, the wonderfully dolorous ‘Siberia’, which must be one of the great protest poems of the world –

In Siberia’s wastes

The Ice-wind’s breath

Woundeth like the toothèd steel . . .

– turns out to be based on an obscure German poem about Polish leaders sentenced to Siberia after the 1830 revolution.

An autobiographical aside here: the first poem of Mangan that I read was not one of his political/historical visions. I was, after all, brought up in the North of Ireland, so British war poetry was more likely to be on the syllabus; echoes of that early training can still be heard in much Northern Irish poetry. Whereas my Southern contemporaries were subjected to dirges like ‘O’Hussey’s Ode to the Maguire’ and, of course, ‘Dark Rosaleen’. Those visionary poems are extraordinary; a lurid light plays over an often arid landscape, and the language is infected with a hectic glitter, as if the poet were drunk or drugged. But I fell in love with a love poem, as I trudged through the woods of south Dublin, chanting to myself: “I saw her once, one little while, and then no more:/ ‘Twas Paradise on Earth awhile, and then no more./ Ah! what avail my vigils pale, my magic lore?”

This of course is from the original German of Rückert. In addition to gently purloining original German poems, Mangan sometimes signs his ostensible translations “Selber”, a variant of “Self”. As when he refers to his translations of the Persian poet, Hafiz, jokingly since he knew little or no Persian, as being “Half-His”. Mangan’s Oriental translations can be seen as part of the fascination with Arabia which led to Goethe’s Westöstlicher Divan and, of course, Moore’s ‘Lalla Rookh’. Of our living Irish poets, only Desmond O’Grady has inherited some of this scholarly passion for the East, translating some of the great Arabic odes. Mangan worked from the available scholars, yet his version of a poem by Jami, ‘The Hundred-Leafèd Rose’, has a gorgeous symmetry. But then this gaunt, golden-haired spectre had a thing about roses, as in his beautiful translation from the Turkish, ‘The Time of the Roses’. And also his haunting, nostalgic poems of youth lost and time passing: “Remember/ The days of roses but as a dream.”

Although the posthumous Poets and Poetry of Munster is a landmark in our literary history, there is the question as to how much Irish Mangan actually knew. Douglas Hyde tells how it was Mangan’s “custom to stretch his body halfway across the counter, while John [O’Daly] would translate the Irish song to him and [he] would versify it . . .” Some of his versions, or “perversions”, are quite beautiful, and again when I was looking for some O’Rahilly for my Faber anthology, I chose Mangan over even Austin Clarke.

Now that we have the mass of Mangan, nearly 1,000 poems, re-evaluation can begin. The more or less official Selected winnows these, with a thoughtful introduction by Terence Brown of Trinity College, whose Dublin University Magazine sustained the poet for years. Brown links the failing fortunes of post-Union Dublin to those of Mangan, his attraction “to the romantic trope of ruination”.

And the dirge still draws us, from Kinsella to Durcan, and beyond. Another, slimmer Selected has been edited and introduced by David Wheatley, a gifted young poet whose own volumes, Thirst and Misery Hill, surely entitle him to write with authority on Mangan’s “landscape of grandeur and desolation”. Brown and Wheatley sometimes see him as a Borges-like “shape-changer”. But while Mangan may lack the length and breadth of his fellow 19th-century Irish poets, Ferguson and Allingham, the nervous intensity of his best lyrics are unique mediumistic masterpieces.

The entire Irish Academic Press series, comprising nine volumes, is also a monument to the tireless general editorship of the late Augustine Martin.




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James Clarence Mangan: His Selected Poems (Miss Guiney’s book in facsimile)

“Ever yours faithfully, J. C. Mangan”





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Miss Guiney, in the Atlantic, on Mangan


~Louise Imogen Guiney~

An Irish Poe. — Few people have ever heard of James Clarence Mangan : even to such as profess literature he is seldom more than a name. A shy, elusive, mysterious personage, he took little pains to push himself into notice, being mainly occupied with the effort, pursued with no great steadiness or success, to keep the wolf from the door. Miss Guiney, who brings him to light in an Atlantic article of uncommon brilliancy, crammed with human as well as literary interest, says “his personal history is quite as vague as if he had lived in a hermit’s cell eight hundred years ago ;” yet she manages to reconstruct him in an outline so striking as to make one wish for more.

Thus wrote a reviewer in Lippincott’s Monthly, for January of 1892, regarding the Bostonian poetess and essayist, Louise Imogen Guiney, whose essay entitled “James Clarence Mangan” had appeared in The Atlantic Monthly two months before (November, 1891 ; LXVIII, pp. 641-59). In a publishing project which the same Lippincott’s scribe had both anticipated and suggested, Miss Guiney would revise and enlarge the piece to serve as preface for her book, James Clarence Mangan : His Selected Poems, with a Study by the Editor (1897) ; and in the dedicatory page of that collection she made a reverential salute to “his kindest friend”, Charles Gavan Duffy who was by this time a retired Sir in the south of France.

Below is reproduced the article from The Atlantic Monthly. All spellings and punctuation of this original essay, whether they represent an American editor’s preferred style, or convey mere mistranscriptions, or reflect variant forms of the poet’s quoted verses, have been retained (all save two : in that line of “Dark Rosaleen” where the word “hill” should be pluralised ; and where “Freihem” has been restored to Freiherr so as to correct an obvious error of misapprehension). Miss Guiney or her editor had awarded a superfluous l to John Mitchel’s name, but that detail is left as it is.

The Latin quotation cinis et manes et fabula, a phrase taken from the Satires of Persius, may be translated : “ashes, then a phantom, and a topic for tale-telling” ; while his being “eager to ‘feel the bumps’ on friendly heads” is a reference to Mangan’s keen interest in phrenology (a theme in his mystical parody story, “The Man in the Cloak”).

From this then, an eloquent and informed Study which is both relatively early and tolerably objective in its field (albeit issuing from the sympathetic pen of a Boston Irishwoman, the daughter of General Guiney of Tipperary no less), we may hope to gain a measure of insight into Clarence Mangan, the clerk at the Fagel Library, the Nameless One, the Man in the Cloak.




On the principle that “it has become almost an honor not to be crowned,” the name of James Clarence Mangan may be announced at once, as very worthy, very distinguished. He is unknown outside his own non-academic fatherland, though he bids fair to be a proverb and a fireside commonplace, much as the Polish poets are at home, within it. Belonging to an age which is nothing if not specific and departmental, he has somehow escaped the classifiers ; his wings have never been run through with a pin and spread under glass in the museums. Duyckinck, Dana, Palgrave, and the score of lesser books which are kind to forgotten or infrequent lyres know him not ; in Allibone’s Dictionary he has but hasty mention ; Ward’s English Poets has no inch of classic text to devote to him. Nor is Mangan’s absence altogether or even chiefly due to editorial shortcomings. The search after him has always been difficult. During his lifetime he published only a collection of translations, and by his own willful, exasperating hand his original numbers are tangled up almost inextricably with other translations. A large mass of his work, good, bad, and indifferent, hides in old newspaper files, and is likely there to remain ; and the only collection representing his genius, an edition eminently imperfect, bearing a New York imprint, and prefaced by John Mitchell’s beautiful memoir, has never been reissued elsewhere, nor bettered in any form. So it is ; and so, perhaps, it must be. All critics indulge in foolish cynicisms, one day or another, and cry out against a stupid world in behalf of the unrecognized. The great spirits, we know, carry applause by siege. But, as Charles Lamb could not fail to perceive, it is not the greatest whom one cares most about. Some fame, and often the choicer and sweeter, is born, as by a paradox, to be a privacy. Our time adjusts merit with supreme propriety in setting up Herrick in the market-place, and in still reserving Daniel for a domestic adoration. Apollo has a class of might-have-beens whom he loves : poets bred in melancholy places, under disabilities, whose thwarted growth and thinned voices “snatch a grace beyond the reach of art ;” poets compounded of everything magical and fair, like an elixir which is the outcome of ecstasy and patience, and which wants in the end, even as common water would, the essence of immortality. The making of a name is too often like the making of a fortune. The more scrupulous contestants turn out to be

“Delicate spirits, pushed away

In the hot press of the noonday.”

Mangan’s 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 demons of opium and alcohol pulled him under, body and soul, despite a persistent and heart-breaking struggle, and he perished ignobly in his prime.

James Clarence Mangan 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 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, Catharine Smith, of whom we know little but her name. The shop seems to have been soon resigned by the elder Mangan to a brother-in-law, whom he beguiled over from London. This Mangan was a willful, tyrannous, thick-headed man, of whom his little ones were afraid. He retired from his business on a competency, but ran through his small estate from excess of hospitality, and died prematurely of the superior disease of disillusion and vexation. The poet, in a posthumous autobiographical fragment, thus describes him, and exalts or debases him into a Celtic type : “His nature was truly noble ; to quote a phrase of my friend O’Donovan, 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 mouse-hole 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.”

Mangan’s judgments were invariably too gentle ; Mitchell says that he was never heard to criticise or blame any one but himself. 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 Kuhn’s verses on a lonely little wildwood boy: —

“I would rather

Be with him than pulling roses.”

An odd, nervous, gloomy child, he was sent to school, in Swift’s forlorn and formal natal neighborhood, in Derby Square, off Werburgh Street. There was a tutor there who had baptized him, and who loved him ; and from him he learned, among other things, the rudiments of French and Latin. But at thirteen or at fifteen (it is impossible to know which) he had to enter the bitter workaday lists of the world, and to toil like “sabbathless Satan” for the support of a family of steadily sinking fortunes, who had no mercy for him, and who preyed upon him like a nest of harpies. As early as 1817 the gift within him was visibly astir, only to vent itself in the charades and whimsical rhymes proper to an almanac. 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. For three years succeeding he was an attorney’s 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 drudgery at 6 York Street gnawed into his memory. Isolation of mind was his habit then as afterwards, and long walks by 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 continual 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 or the yet unlovelier office he would pace the streets softly reciting some sad verses of Ovid’s which had a charm for him at school, and keeping his mind alive with reverie and song, — a solitary young golden-haired figure, rapt and kind, upon whom no gladness ever broke, and who was alone in any crowd. But he had already fallen on solaces less sure than these. In the parlors of 2 Church Lane, College Green, he found his earliest encouragers : intellectual tipplers, most of them, like Tighe and Lawrence Bligh, ready to be Mangan’s colleagues in dangerous and downward paths. It is written that, about this time, 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. A crowning calamity came upon him between 1820 and 1825. His first love was given to a fair girl much “above him,” according to our strange surveys. She encouraged his shy approaches ; and he was tremblingly, perilously happy. For the pleasantest period of his life he was in frequent social contact with interesting people of station and breeding, with those who made for him his fitting environment. But at the moment when he feared nothing he was taken like a bird in the fowler’s net, and cast scornfully away. Stunned and broken, he crept back as best he could to solitude. He had no confidant ; he waived the effeminacy of a diary ; none of all who have written here and there of him can do more than allude to the heroine of his tragedy. Name, habitation, date, she has none. With perfect dignity, and with a reticence which does him infinite honor, he laid aside hope, and went into the black valley before him. Only once, in 1839, in the midst of the clumsy machinery of the dialogue Polyglot Anthology, he utters some rather imprecatory stanzas To Laura, or, as afterwards amended, To Frances, beginning, —

“The life of life is gone and over ;”

and mentions, with his usual mendacity and presence of mind, that they are from the Italian ! They close in a fine Byronic burst :

“Adieu ! for thee the heavens are bright,

Bright flowers along thy pathway lie :

The bolts that strike, the winds that blight,

Will pass thy bower of beauty by.

“But when shall rest be mine ? Alas,

When first the winter wind shall wave

The pale wild flowers, the long dark grass,

Above my unremembered grave.”

He was safe here in speaking out, as he was safe later in The Nameless One, because he had always been so close-lipped and uncomplaining. None of his contemporaries, at least, could measure how entirely, in both instances, he relieved his heart. The face of no woman ever appealed to Mangan again. Other and yet 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 after his rebuff. 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 hermit’s 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 yesterday, close at hand, he was a stranger. He passed through their company like the ghost of a séance, with soundless speech and gait : whence and whither none could discover. Mangan was a loving student of the mediæval 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. Johnson’s heartfelt lament over Richard Savage, who, after an inner battle, retired occasionally into chaos, with 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 deeps of partial insanity did Mangan also fall ; 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.

Giving what he could, and asking nothing, genial and gentle to all that lived, he did not lack affection. In his poverty, 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, Dr. Anster, and, especially, Sir Charles Gavan Duffy. The Nation paid Mangan in advance for the copy he too often forgot to supply ; Trinity College Library employed “the admirable scribe” on its vast new catalogues, until, alas, he forfeited its regard ; the Ordnance Survey Office, where he was at peace awhile among topographers and antiquaries, generally the happiest-tempered of men, proved to be but a haven whence the fearful undercurrents were persistently dragging him out to sea. He might have lived with those who would have appreciated and protected him, but he was too proud. It pleased him better to sit in a garret by his invalid brother, with a bottle for a candlestick, sipping tar-water, and, with his delicate smile, watching the other’s consumption of the single egg which was all Apollo’s 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 cherished tar-water too, left in pawn for the antepenultimate rent. Nothing very definite ever happened to him. Always suffering in health, 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, sick, harassed, and clinging with foolhardy calm to his Bride Street dwelling during the great cholera epidemic, suddenly and quietly as the shutting of a glow-worm’s little lamp, on June 20, 1849, his life went out, at the Meath Hospital, whither he had been removed. The nurse who had cared for him thoughtlessly burned the papers he had covered with his exquisite handwriting. The Reverend Charles P. Meehan (who survived until the spring of 1890), to whom the poet had long been dear, Dr. Stokes, and Burton, the artist, helped him, as watchers and faithful friends. Burton came in again when all was over, and drew the pallid face as it lay back upon the pillow, old and weary with its forty-six insupportable years. The unique portrait of Clarence Mangan hangs now in the National Gallery on Leinster Lawn, Dublin, a more striking and significant thing than Severn’s tender sketch of the dying Keats. He was buried a mile or two away, in Glasnevin. Those who laid him in his grave did so with hearts not unthankful. Upon the headstone, tardily raised, there might have been graven Dante’s touching symbol of the worm,

“Born to become the angelic butterfly.”

To think of Mangan dead was to think of him as freed, abroad on fortunate wings for the first time, and for eternity.

His locked-in soul reveals itself, however, to the eye of sympathy. He even speaks a second time, with an unreserve which has a certain horror, in The Nameless One, the fiercest, fullest, most memorable of all his poems.



Roll forth, my song, like a rushing river
That sweeps along to the mighty sea ;
God will inspire me while I deliver
My soul of thee !
.Tell thou the world, when my bones lie whitening
Amid the last homes of youth and eld,
That there once was one whose veins ran lightning
No eye beheld.
.Tell how his boyhood was one drear night-hour,
How shone for him, thro’ his grief and gloom,
No star of all heaven sends to light our
Path to the tomb.
.Roll on, my song, and to after-ages
Tell how, disdaining all earth could give,
He would have taught men from wisdom’s pages
The way to live.
And tell how, trampled, derided, hated,
And worn by weakness, disease, and wrong,
He fled for shelter to God, who mated
His soul with song :
.With song that alway, sublime or vapid,
Flowed like a rill in the morning beam ;
Perchance not deep, but intense and rapid,
A mountain stream !
Tell how this nameless, condemned for years long
To herd with demons from hell beneath,
Saw things that made him, with groans and tears, long
For even death.
Go on to tell how, with genius wasted,
Betrayed in friendship, befooled in love,
With spirit shipwrecked, and young hopes blasted,
He still, still strove,
Till, spent with toil, dreeing death for others,
And some whose hands should have wrought for him,
(If children live not for sires and mothers,)
His mind grew dim,
And he fell far thro’ the pit abysmal,
The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns,
And pawned his soul for the devil’s dismal
Stock of returns ;
But yet redeemed it in days of darkness,
And shapes and signs of the final wrath,
When death, in hideous and ghastly starkness,
Stood on his path.
And tell how now, amid wreck, and sorrow,
And want, and sickness, and houseless nights,
He bides in calmness the silent morrow
That no ray lights.
And lives he still, then ? Yes, old and hoary
At thirty-nine, from despair and woe,
He lives, enduring what future story
Will never know.
Him grant a grave to, ye pitying noble !
Deep in your bosoms, there let him dwell :
He, too, had tears for all souls in trouble
Here, and in hell. 
While everybody recognizes the pathos and manliness of what Burns pleads in behalf of his projected self, this far more wonderful elegy, based on the same remorse, is forgotten. When Mangan cries, only too autobiographically,
“And he fell far thro’ the pit abysmal, 

The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns,”

he lends us an incidental glimpse of two forerunners to whom he was attached. The mention of Maginn has unique historic interest ; for he exercised on Mangan’s genius a pronounced though superficial influence. It seems ironical to recall to the present generation of readers the Sir Morgan Odoherty of Blackwood’s, the star of Fraser’s and the Noctes, now cinis et manes et fabula— the joyous, the learned, the amazing William Maginn, LL. D., who, because he reaped a temporal reward as an unsurpassed writer for magazines, has all but perished from the heaven of remembered literature. The coupling of his truly illustrious name with that of Burns was, at the given date, obvious. It is not likely that Mangan would have spoken of the ultimate blight of Maginn’s great powers while he lived ; and the allusion in the poem itself to the age of the author (thirty-nine), would tend to fix its composition in the year of Maginn’s death, 1842. Profound feeling, as of a personal loss, premonition, as if called forth by the fate of one familiarly known, hang over these rushing strophes, written as they are in the third person, and free from extraneous events. It is clear that Mangan had an enthusiasm for Maginn, hitherto unnoted. His commentary in the Anthologia Germanica, in the Litteræ Orientales, and in all the rather imitative raillery of his Dublin University Magazine work, with its officious instructive footnotes, testifies how genuine it was. And the midsummer news from Walton-on-Thames, which struck home to many who loved “learning lightly worn,” and who grieved for might put to no immortal use, hurt also the quiet clerkly figure on the library ladders of Trinity, and added a pang to his opinion of himself. Maginn’s is the only influence discernible in Mangan’s prose ; his poetry, even prior to the time when his style was formed, is aloof, to a remarkable degree, from known fashions. Once, indeed, he seems to have assimilated and forgotten 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

“Disturbed her soul with pity.”

“The song of the tree that the saw sawed thro’,” says Mangan, after Coleridge,

“Disturbed my spirit with pity,

Began to subdue

My spirit with tenderest pity !”

But Mangan’s echoes are so rare that they amount to phenomena.

It was always said of him, even as a boy, that he could not tolerate direction in his reading. Of whatever other comfort he was bereft, he seems to have owned books, and his taste was solely for the best of them. Browsing habitually among the stalls of the Four Courts, he grew to an intimacy with the fathers of English literature ; nor was his choice of contemporaries less interesting. He fell down before Godwin’s St. Leon, when, if we may judge by a phrase in the mouth of one of Mangan’s fictitious characters, he went to sleep over Sir Walter’s bugle-cries. And he admired (may he be forgiven these vagaries) Mr. Rogers. But we find him quoting Balzac, Charles Lamb, and the young Tennyson, and affectionately addressing a friend who sought to uplift him as

“Thou endowed with all of Shelley’s soul,”

at a time when “Shelley’s soul” was still rated below par by the sagacious world which had not known him. Mangan thought, however, that there was “a cloud on Shelley’s character.” It is pleasant to think of the small blond sprite of 1811 tripping in and out of the Derby Square school, who may have looked more than once on Shelley’s 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

“As the tanned galley-slave is with his oar,”

and he was never out of it.

Mangan had some theoretical knowledge of painting and of music ; he took deeper interest in Paracelsus and Lavater than in the professors of more practical sciences than theirs. Deep as was his hope for the welfare of all humanity, he could not be accredited with anything so local and gross as a political opinion, even in the seething times of O’Connell. But he proved, when the crisis came, that his heart was with the Young Ireland party, with the purest and maddest ideal that ever dawned upon his troubled motherland. He very generously stole out of his privacy to support it with a pledge, sending in one resplendent recruit, the Irish National Hymn, to represent him in the ranks, and, later, supplementing it with a popular song perfect in its kind, A Highway for Freedom. This unsuspected enthusiasm in one apart from the common concerns of men had a distinctive moral beauty. So Thoreau, wedded to growing leaves and the golden hues of a squirrel’s eye, stood forth from his happy woods, and spoke promptly and aloud in the ear of scandalized New England for John Brown. Mangan, like Cowley, like Southey and Coleridge, had a sort of yearning for what he is pleased to call
“The dædal Amazon,

And the glorious O´hi-o´,”

and, like Byron, he pays a lofty compliment to “the single soul of Washington ;” but the notion of his actually taking passage to Washington’s open-doored republic must have been 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 was always, at heart, religious. 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 Goldsmith’s instinct, as it was Mangan’s, to hitch his wagon to a star ; and presently to discover, without any change of countenance, that his star had no power of motion, and so to stand, a spectacle for the laughter of men and gods. It is Mangan’s chief negative merit that he was duped and driven to the wall because he had so much faith or altruism. Such weakness, rather than the strength 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 cravat 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. It was with a gliding grace, the converse of awkwardness, that he wandered around the journalist offices of Trinity Street, where, after prolonged eclipse, the outcast apparition alighted in the doorway, and heads of curious clerks bobbed up from the desks. If Mangan talked at all, he indulged in a soft, desultory, uncanny soliloquy, when he could do so 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 be gay. There was nothing in him of the roisterer, but his speech was full of sudden witticisms, sly fooling that drew no blood. 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 a contemporary paints him, not without a handsome reference to the huge inevitable umbrella, “carried like a cotton oriflamme in the most settled weather, and which, when partly covered by his cloak, might 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 little brown, caped cloak in which he seemed to have been born ; and the strange, antique, dismaying hat aforesaid, fixed over his silken white hair, is set down to our great satisfaction (in the preface to O’Daly’s 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, eager to “feel the bumps” on friendly heads, 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 Fielding’s brain, lovingly handled in two volumes octavo, and abstracted from the hard vicissitudes of mortality.

His priceless gift expressed itself in fugitive verses 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 he was faithful, in his intermittent fashion, from its inception in 1833 up to his death, sixteen years later. “Throughout his whole literary life of twenty years,” says his patriot friend Mitchell, “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 indifference ; 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, “Selber’s 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 were hostile and on the side of his country in her storms fifty years ago. At any rate, he never burned even the permissible candle to Mammon. London, and through her posterity, are the losers ; there would have been no doubt of his welcome.

Miserable as Mangan was, he had “content surpassing wealth” in his art. On this subject, as on all that touch him nearly, 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 farthing’s 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. His work, at its worst, has the faults inseparable from the conditions under which it was wrought : it is stumbling, pert, diffuse, distraught. He had in full that racial luxuriance and fluency which, wonderful to see in its happier action, tend always to carry a poet off his feet, and wash him into the deep seas of slovenliness. Mangan’s scholarship, painfully, intermittently acquired, never distilled itself into him, to react imperiously on all he wrote. Again, his mental strength, crowded back from the highways of literature, wreaked itself in feats not the worthiest : in the taming of unheard-of metres, in illegal decoration of other men’s fabrics, in orthopoeic and homonymic freaks of all kinds, not to be matched since the Middle Ages. It cannot be said of him, in the full sense, as Hannay says of Poe, that “he never profaned his genius, whatsoever else he profaned.” Mangan’s work, if the moral test be applied to it, is exceedingly immaculate ; but much of it is mockingly insincere. The alloy of poverty and humiliation gets into it, and gives it an underbred air. “Hippocrene may be inexhaustible,” he says quaintly, and on another topic, “but it flows up to us through a pump.” Did ever Virgilian perfection spring from a poet hurried and ill-fed ? The marvel, burning the dross away, is the spirit of victory in Mangan which often and utterly surmounts the most appalling obstacles known to the mind of man. At his best he is astonishingly original and modern ; and he is cosmopolitan, after the manner of the Irish, who have the wit to be, at call,

“like almost anything,

Or a yellow albatross !”

His mind is liberal and impassioned, full of the willful strength which repels discipline. His wild excellence looks best confronted with the sweet and adroit lays of his townsman and contemporary, Thomas Moore ; these two stand asunder at the poles of the lyric world. Surprisingly slight as is the body of Mangan’s poetry hitherto printed as his own, he shows in it considerable inequality. It is hard to believe that the Hellenic strophes of Enthusiasm, whose opening invocation Clough might have penned, —

“Not yet trodden under wholly,

Not yet darkened,

O my spirit’s flickering lamp, art thou !”

belong to the same source as the guffaw-like postlude to the Broken-Hearted Song. But Mangan must have his range : awful when he draws himself up to the Karamanian attitude, —
“I was mild as milk till then,
I was soft as silk till then ;
Now my breast is like a den,
Karaman !
Foul with blood and bones of men,
Karaman !
With blood and bones of slaughtered men,
Karaman, O Karaman !”
and when he touches Ireland and the peasants’ famine-year, in
“Understand your position,
Remember your mission,
And vacillate not
Whatsoever ensue,” 
either so altered, so shrunken, that his own dog would not know him, or else belied altogether by the attributing of his name to political drivel entirely foreign both to his intellect and his character. Mitchell, who had unerring literary acumen, detected in Mangan 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.” 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 mauvaise honte that comes at intervals over Mangan, and stands between him and his angel,

“When the angel says, ‘Write.'”

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 strangely gushing water, and dream not but that all water tastes the same the wide world over.

Mangan had not been given his title to the Erin of song for nothing. He atoned to the ancestral tongue he could neither speak nor understand by making it articulate in the hearing of the invader. It is folly to speak of him as a strictly successful translator ; in power of interpretation he must yield to Sir Samuel Ferguson. But he ran into twilight fields of his own, as was his wont, and dedicated exquisite work, albeit a trifle schismatical, to the ancient literature of his country. Several Gaelic scholars furnished him, toward the end of his life, with literal drafts of the many ballads he was to render ; and within these outlines he built up structures altogether glorious, and not unfaithful to their first design. There is a breathless grandeur in his chanting of the Hymn of St. Patrick, At Tarah To-Day, the manuscript of which, still preserved at Trinity College, is proved by Dr. Petrie to be thirteen hundred years old. It was with such magnificent deep-mouthed apostrophes that Mangan was best fitted to cope. He was able to try them again in a translation sacred to war as the other to Christian peace, O’Hussey’s Ode to the Maguire : rude heroic strophes bursting from the heart of the last hereditary bard of the great sept of Fermanagh as late as the reign of Charles I., while the courtly lyres of England were tinkling a cannon shot away. Precisely as good as these, in its province, is the inimitable sarcastic rattle of The Woman of Three Cows. But Mangan’s happiest witchwork is in My Dark Rosaleen. This was written by a worthy contemporary of Shakespeare’s, an unknown minstrel of the Tyrconnel chief Hugh the Red O’Donnell, who put upon the lips of his lord, as addressed to Ireland, the love-name of Roisin Dubh, the Black-Haired Little Rose. More exact versions of this symbolic masterpiece have since been made, but the stormy beauty of Mangan’s lines does away with considerations of law and order. From an extract such as “Over hills and hollows I have traveled for you, Roisin Dubh ! and crossed Loch Erne in a strong wind, . . . but the mountains shall be valleys and the rivers flowing backward before I shall let harm befall my Roisin Dubh,” the poet draws the second, fifth, and last stanzas of seven, one of these being all but a pure gratuity, like a foam-ball on the stream : —

“Over hill[s] and thro’ dales

Have I roamed for your sake !

All yesterday I sailed with sails

On river and on lake.

The Erne at its highest flood

I dashed across unseen,

For there was lightning in my blood,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !

O there was lightning in my blood,

Red lightning lightened thro’ my blood,

My Dark Rosaleen !

.         .         .         .         .         .         .         .

“Over dews, over sands,

Will I fly for your weal ;

Your holy delicate white hands

Shall girdle me with steel.

At home in your emerald bowers

From morning’s dawn till e’en,

You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My fond Rosaleen !

You’ll think of me thro’ Daylight’s hours,

My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,

My Dark Rosaleen !

.         .         .         .         .         .         .         .

“O the Erne shall run red

With redundance of blood,

The earth shall rock beneath our tread,

And flames wrap hill and wood,

And gun-peal and slogan-cry

Wake many a glen serene,

Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !

The Judgment Hour must first be nigh,

Ere you can fade, ere you can die,

My Dark Rosaleen !”

What passionate, inebriating thought and sound even these fragments hold ! The manner is all Mangan’s ; its noteworthiest feature being the 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.

The only book published by Mangan during his life was the Anthologia Germanica, which, having run its course in a magazine, was printed, without its prose passages, in 1845 (it is said at Sir Charles Gavan Duffy’s expense). Whatever reputation Mangan has rests upon it, and it is sometimes praised far beyond its deserts. His diction, here as elsewhere, is simple, emotional, choice ; it is easy to number instances of extremely skillful rendition. But these German poems, being what the Irish ones are not, the children of conventional art, suffer more from Mangan’s swervings and strayings. He treats his great victims pretty much as Burns, with every justification, treats the floating Scotch ballads : he adjusts, he reverses, he interfuses, his old material with a fresh quality. If he fails to confess, with the Sir E— B— L— of Bon Gaultier,

“I’ve hawked at Schiller on his lyric throne,

And given the astonished bard a meaning all my own,”

at least he can well be pardoned for his all too generous doings ; for Mangan seldom detracts from the Muse he professes to follow ; his unfaithfulness is in quite another category. The single fact of his having transformed the hard-hearted Kunegund of The Ride around the Parapet into the Lady Eleanora von Alleyne, trumpeting her to and fro with splendid repetitions, is indicative enough of his prodigal habit. Mangan takes under protest, though his endeavor is always to make you think him a great assimilator and economist ; but he is a prodigious giver. He hates the niggardly hand, like Horace, 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 often is his inferior. The best known and certainly the loveliest of his shorter German translations is Rückert’s ghazel, Und Dann Nicht Mehr.


I saw her once, one little while, and then no more :
‘T was Eden’s light on Earth awhile, and then no more.
Amid the throng she passed along the meadow-floor ;
Spring seemed to smile on Earth awhile, and then no more.
But whence she came, which way she went, what garb she wore,
I noted not ; I gazed awhile, and then no more.

I saw her once, one little while, and then no more :
‘T was Paradise on Earth awhile, and then no more.
Ah ! what avail my vigils pale, my magic lore ?
She shone before mine eyes awhile, and then no more.
The shallop of my peace is wrecked on Beauty’s shore ;
Near Hope’s fair isle it rode awhile, and then no more.

I saw her once, one little while, and then no more :
Earth looked like heaven a little while, and then no more.
Her presence thrilled and lighted to its inner core
My desert breast a little while, and then no more.
So may, perchance, a meteor glance at midnight o’er
Some ruined pile a little while, and then no more.

I saw her once, one little while, and then no more :
The earth was peri-land awhile, and then no more.
Oh, might I see but once again, as once before,
Thro’ chance or wile, that shape awhile, and then no more,
Death soon would heal my grief ; this heart, now sad and sore,
Would beat anew a little while, and then no more. 

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 revivify almost everything he touches. Scores of times, as in Wetzel’s Sehnsucht, itself very like Mignon’s immortal song of the far-off land and of the spiritual longing to turn thither, Mangan deliberately improvises on his theme, as if he would say, “See how I would have done it, more Mangano !” He matches Wetzel’s graceful eight lines with twenty-five of his own,  melodiously overlapping, and of extraordinary sweetness, in which

“Morn and eve a star invites me,

One imploring silver star,

Wooes me, calls me, lures me, lights me,”

with a divine persistence as far as the “imploring star” itself from good Wetzel’s imagination.  

The truth is, Clarence Mangan is no translator at all. He is dominated by his own genuine and splendid 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 pliable, not uniformly “at your service, sir ;” he can give an able and courteous coöperation 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 seems aware of the existence of Heine, whose abrupt beauty he was curiously well fitted to convey into English, only to appraise him as “darkly diabolical,” and to touch severely on his “melancholy misdirection of glorious faculties.” As it was, he wasted on the dreams of anybody else the time he was forbidden to devote to the inspirations of his own brain. It was Mangan’s 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 did 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 beneath 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.

The question of his Oriental “translations” is of absorbing interest. He is not known to lovers of literature, because he played tricks masterly as any of Chatterton’s, and because, unfortunately for the vindication of his genius, his tricks have never been discovered and explained, — they have been merely suspected ; and the lazy few who have written of him since he died have left it to be inferred that he was more of a savant and less of an organic force than he was. His obliging labor of transposing the Welsh, Danish, Frisian, Swedish, Russian, and Bohemian (for he solemnly pretends to deal in all these) is pure trickery. If Mangan had had the linguistic requirements of his adored Maginn and of Father Prout, he would have rivaled their gigantic jokes on the gentle reader. Latin and three of the current European tongues he knew, and he quoted Greek, possibly at first hand ; he goes out of his way to bear witness that English is nobler than them all ; but it seems clear that he was no better versed in the Oriental languages and their dialects than in Gaelic. The Schlegels, Herder, Rückert, and others whom he read were full of Arabic and Persian influences, obvious or occult. During the earlier half of the century the eyes of scholars were turned often enough to the East ; by 1830 there was enough of it in German and English letters, enough even in the spurious bulbuls of Lalla Rookh, to supply a man of nimble apprehension like Mangan, “sagacious of his quarry from afar,” with visions of his own. He expressly states somewhere that he dislikes the Orientals for their mysticism ! Meanwhile, on a fine musical 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 the himation to Keats, mischief is afoot. He does not only invent his Ottoman ; he invents a Teuton, in one instance, to be his Ottoman’s sponsor. In 1845, in the pages of the Dublin University Magazine, “J. C. M.” bursts into the wild and moving measures of The Last Words of Al Hassan. He remarks that he found it in Wolff’s Hausschatz, “the repertory of an incredible quantity of middling poetry ;” and he adds that it was composed by “one Heyden, a name unfamiliar to our ears.” Now there is no Heyden indexed or otherwise represented in Wolff’s Hausschatz. Mark the artful depreciation of the German volume, meant, perhaps, to fright a possible speculator in Manganese. “Translation ‘s so feasible !” he exclaims in a passage of unusual jollity, wherein he blames other bards who do not dedicate themselves, for the hungry public’s sake, to that excellent diversion. Lamb himself had no more fun out of Ritson and John Scott the Quaker than Mangan has out of his poem by Selber, with notes by Dr. Berri Abel Hummer ! The nomenclature of some of his puppets is quite too daring ; Berri Abel is bad enough, but Baugtrauter is notorious. Even Where ‘s My Money ? (his only humorous poem which is really a success, really not to be spared) he gives away with a flourish to one Franz Freiherr Gaudy. He declared continually that his “translations” were not rigidly faithful, 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 the most original accents of the century. He took tremendous delight in throwing dust in the eyes of devoted Dublin. It is obviously within reason that in Mangan’s soaring stanzas dedicated to the Ingleeze Khafir, Djaun Bool Djenkinzun, the dear and dunder-headed 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 essentially intangible ; none could affirm with authority that 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 at Trinity. The names of authors whom he cited, Baba Khodjee, Selim-il-Anagh, Mustafa Reezah (may their tribe decrease !), were not illuminating. 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 a critic with half an eye could discern that the verses were only Hafiz ! His custom was to let Hafiz alone, with Saadi and Omar, these being persons somewhat familiar to the general. The poets he courts are more preciously private to himself then ever Cyril Tourneur was, some years ago, to the elect. 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 spectral little spectacled Mangan.

It is as a son of the Prophet that he claims full applause. Al Hassan is more than equaled by The Wail and Warning of the Three Khalendeers, once

“full of health and heart

Upon the foamy Bosphorus,”

by The Time of the Barmecides, The Howling Song of Al Mohara, and others, drawn, like these, from the impossible “Persian,” which escaped the vigilance of Mitchell, a man of many affairs, and which are yet to be found scattered up and down the capital-lettered yellow pages of extinct provincial journals. This Howling Song has a consummate vehemence.

My heart is as a house of groans
From dusky eve to dawning gray ;
(Allah, Allah hu !¹)
The glazed flesh on my staring bones
Grows black and blacker with decay.
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Yet am I none whom Death may slay ;
I am spared to suffer and to warn ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
My lashless eyes are parched to horn 
With weeping for my sin alway ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
For blood, hot blood that no man sees,
The blood of one I slew,
Burns on my hands : I cry therefóre,
All night long, on my knees,
Allah, Allah hu !
Because I slew him over wine,
Because I struck him down at night,
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Because he died and made no sign,
His blood is always in my sight ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Because I raised my arm to smite
While the foul cup was at his lips,
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Because I wrought his soul’s eclipse
He comes between me and the light ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
His is the form my terror sees,
The sinner that I slew ;
My rending cry is still therefóre,
All night long, on my knees,
Allah, Allah hu !
[¹ O God, O God most high !]
Under the all-just heaven’s expanse
There is for me no resting-spot ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
I dread man’s vengeful countenance,
The smiles of woman win me not.
(Allah, Allah hu !) 
I wander among graves where rot
The carcasses of leprous men,
(Allah, Allah hu !)
I house me in the dragon’s den
Till evening darkens grove and grot.
(Allah, Allah hu !)
But bootless all : Who penance drees
Must dree it his life thro’ ;
My heart-wrung cry is still therefóre
All night long, on my knees,
Allah, Allah hu !
The silks that swathe my hall-deewan ¹
Are damascened with moons of gold ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Musk-roses from my gulistan ²
Fill vases of Egyptian mould ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
The Koran’s treasures lie unrolled
Near where my radiant night-lamp burns ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Around me rows of silver urns
Perfume the air with odors old.
(Allah, Allah hu !)
But what avail these luxuries ?
The blood of him I slew
Burns red on all : I cry therefóre
All night long, on my knees,
Allah, Allah hu !
Can sultans, can the guilty rich
Purchase with mines and thrones a draught,
(Allah, Allah hu !)
From that Nutulian ³ fount from which 
The conscience-tortured whilom quaffed ?
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Vain dream ! Power, glory, riches, craft,
Prove magnets for the sword of wrath,
(Allah, Allah hu !)
Thorn-plant man’s last and lampless path,
And barb the slaying angel’s shaft ;
(Allah, Allah hu !)
O the blood-guilty ever sees
But sights that make him rue,
As I do now, and cry therefóre
All night long, on my knees,
Allah, Allah hu !
[¹ Sofa or seat along the side of a room.

² Rose-garden.                  ³ Lethean.]

Mangan’s other Eastern fictions, like some 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 music of days gone by, the light tinging a present cloud from the absent sun, are everywhere in Mangan’s 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 Pascal’s crushed and thinking reed of mankind, parcequ’il sait qu’il meurt, et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui : l’univers n’en 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 poet’s license. 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, porch, turret, gallery, and dome, at one imperious gesture of relinquishment. Down tumbles Bagdad ! — the sound 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 ? With his provoking banter, in April of 1840, he calls attention in a magazine to The Time of the Barmecides, which he had given to the same pages precisely a year before, and which he had bettered infinitely, meanwhile, by a few discreet touches. Starting off with a motto (obviously of his own manufacture), that

“There runs thro’ all the dells of time

No stream like Youth again,”

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 few, 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 original of our oversettings), we are quite ready to come forward and treat : terms cash, except to young ladies.” With talk of 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 Castaly’s 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 a full recognition of it from outsiders would have subjected Mangan, ultimately, to a process very like lionizing. With characteristic shirking, and with an awkward inability to “face,” literally, his own music, he sealed his charter of merit to his supposititious ancients and aliens. We, the perspicacious readers of another generation, are 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,

“Bold Plutarch, Neptune, and Nicodemus,”

are the co-heirs of the selfsame astonishing style ! Wits were at work on him, even as on a rebus, long before he died. Some anonymous person, aware of a new sound when he heard it, addressed to him an apostrophe not utterly flat, since it shows that the sagacious race of mousers abides always and everywhere, and that, according to a metaphysical truism, no one can deceive at all : —

“Various and curious are thy strains, O Clarence Mangan,

Rhyming and chiming in a very odd way ;

Rhyming and chiming ! and the like of them no man can

Easily find in a long summer’s day.”

The refrain is characteristic, in some shape or other, of all old poetry. It belongs to Judea and Greece, to infant England, to northern France, to the Persianized Germany of Mangan’s study. After a long lapse, it had its first faint perceptible modern use in the peculiar cadence of Coleridge’s stops and keys. The fact that, at divers periods, fashions of thought and speech infect the air is a vindication of many laureled heads ; for it is a theory which pinches nobody. Almost on the same morning, within twenty years of Coleridges’s 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. Of these, if we would speak technically, where the competition is so close, Mrs. Browning invented and foreshadowed much, but with a light hand. Poe’s ringing of the word-changes is, on the other hand, so bold that any successor who approximates his manner is sure now of instant detection and smiling discouragement. Whatever recalls

“Come, let the burial rite be read,
The funeral song be sung !
An anthem for the queenliest dead
That ever died so young ;
A dirge for her, the doubly dead,
In that she died so young,”

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 Mangan’s kingdom. The unmistakable shibboleth of Poe’s maturer poetry, the employment of sonorous successive lines which cunningly fall short of exact duplication, belongs also to Mangan, in the same degree. There is this passage, 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 sawmill : —

“‘For this grieve not ; thou knowest what thanks
The weary-souled and the meek owe
To Death !’ I awoke, and I heard four planks
Fall down with a saddening echo, —
I heard four planks
Fall down with a hollow echo !”
Were it not for the imperfect rhyme, any critic would attribute the lines 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. Poe’s maiden work has not the lovely lyrical 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 repetition which, like a looped ribbon, flutters about the close of so many of his posthumous verses. The Raven was first published in January of 1845 ; it spread like wildfire in America, and reached London the next year. The English parodies of it, which would certify that it was popular and familiar, began in 1853. Ulalume appeared in Colton’s Review, in 1847 ; and it may be considered as the perfect blossom of Poe’s da capo tendencies. Mangan, back in 1839 and 1840, bestowed on heedless air the same emphatic melancholy notes in Night is Nearing, in The Time of the Barmecides, and something not far from them in The Howling Song ; indeed, as this article proves, it is difficult to quote from him at all and not detect the accent associated forever and mistakenly with Ulalume, Lenore, For Annie, and the rest. In the Dublin University Magazine, during the years when Poe was attaining his zenith of success, figure other exemplars of Mangan’s unchanged art : The Time ere the Roses were Blowing, The Wail and Warning, Twenty Golden Years Ago, the rousing Winniger Winehouse, My Dark Rosaleen, and
“The wasted moon has a marvellous look
Amiddle of the starry hordes ;
The heavens, too, shine like a mystic book
All bright with burning words ;
The mists of the dawn begin to dislimn
Zahara’s castles of sand :
Farewell, farewell ! Mine eyes feel dim,
They turn to the lampless land,
‘Llah Hu !
My heart is weary, mine eyes are dim ;
I would rest in the dark, dark land.”
Mrs. Browning and Coleridge are influences aside, when one comes to scrutinize the neck-and-neck achievements of Mangan and Poe. Mr. Joseph Skipsey openly infers that Poe fell across Mangan’s experimental measures during his own editorial and journalistic career. The proposition might have more weight coming from a more cautious pen, yet it is as practicable as a guess need be. The American’s thrift and hardihood, his known accomplishment of buccaneering, beneficent as it came to be in the application, helped him to adopt and bring into notice any reform perishing in obscure hands. So he supplemented the octosyllabic cadences of Lady Geraldine’s Courtship in
“The silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain”
with a patrician aggressiveness never to be confounded with common theft. No arraignment of this sort can be brought against poor chivalrous Mangan which would not be a chronological absurdity. He got his phrase once, if not his pace, from Coleridge. That beatific philosopher might have pushed his practice farther ; but he lacked that sensationalism which is a noble ingredient if used sparingly and in season, and of which Mangan and Poe, beyond all doubt, were possessed. But 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 things, or so placed that he could and would scan even the near English horizon. It was the business of the other to sit in a watch-tower
“Where Helicon breaks down
In cliff to the sea.”
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 soberly bequeathed to the soil of English literature a hitherto exotic beauty. But Clarence Mangan, shrinking like the Thane before the supernatural “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter !” is the true founder, nevertheless, of the most picturesque feature in modern verse.
Poe was ever the finer artist ; he had a more steadfast and sumptuous imagination. While he links himself with his immediate English predecessors in The Haunted Palace, The City of the Sea, and the opening of Al Aaraaf, and so falls gracefully into his dynastic place, Mangan has a leaning, far more wayward and unaccountable, sometimes to the whimsical, affectionate temper of Béranger, sometimes to the bare strength of the Elizabethans themselves, as in his line where Fate
“Tolls the disastrous bell of all our years,”
a line as unlike as possible to
.“Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore.”
He is somewhat addicted to compound words ; and in the rash use of such words 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 Mangan’s lunges ; his every cæsural 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 nicety.
The two Celts had much, very much, in common ; Poe’s Attic taste and training are responsible for most of the difference. To affirm of him, as has often been done, that he worshiped 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 frail physique, his forehead high and pale, the lower part of his face sensitive and dejected, — in writing thus of Poe one describes Mangan equally well. They had kindred dreams ; they had the same ascetic sense of humor ; they were haunted by the same “dishonor of the grave;” they died, under almost identical circumstances of pain and mystery, in the same year. In the moral contrast it is the Irish poet who gains. Poe, with his manifold gifts (if we may pervert the terms of a theological thesis not “defended or oppugned, or both, at Leipsic or Göttingen”), 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, as proud at heart, was a pattern of gratitude and deference, and left the force and virginal sweetness of his art to prosper or perish, as Heaven should please.
In 1803, the year of Mangan’s birth, Mrs. Hemans printed her first verses, and Moore, already a popular young minstrel, was commissioned to be Admiralty Register at Bermuda. The Lyrical Ballads had sunk, softly as a snowflake, into the earth one twelvemonth before. Mangan’s early youth was the flowering-time of Keats, Shelley, and Byron ; and he was writing for penny journals while the new minor notes, Hood’s, Praed’s, Moore’s, were filling the air. He died, not companionless, with Emily Brontë, Hartley Coleridge, and Thomas Lovell Beddoes, in 1849 : three souls of lavish promise, defrauded and unfulfilled like his own, yet happier than he, inasmuch as they have had since many liegemen and rememberers. He stands withdrawn in the violet shadow of the Wicklow hills all through the gathering thunder of revolutions abroad and the near and mighty wind of Tractarianism. If he should ever come forward, it will be with his own whimsical, misgiving manner, and with questions pathetically irrelevant, as of one whom the fairies had led astray.
“O sayest thou the soul shall climb
The magic mount she trod of old,
Ere childhood’s time ?”
It may be the solemn privilege of a daring editor, some auspicious day, to illustrate this not irrecoverable name in an anthology ; or, better yet, to gather a full volume from the scattered files of Dublin journalism, which shall supplant Mitchell’s necessarily hurried and haphazard labor. May that not impossible editor have the gallantry to repeat, in introducing Clarence Mangan, the words with which Schumann prefaced a review of the young Chopin : “Hats off, gentlemen : a Genius !”


Imogen Guiney.




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