dimecres, 15 de desembre de 2010

AUSTIN CLARKE (2)


The Planter's Daughter

This poem, on the surface, is concerned with the relationships between the native tenantry and the English and Scottish planters who arrived in Ireland during the 16th and 17th Centuries. The central feature of the poem is the poet's obvious admiration for the planter's daughter. She represents a traditional Celtic ideal of female beauty, she is the spéirbhean, the banshee, the aisling and other heroines of Celtic literature. Like all of these, there is an air of unreality about the planter's daughter, there is an element of the supra-natural in the poets description of her.

Clarke uses suggestion rather than obvious or exact description to present the beauty of the planter's daughter. The richly suggestive imagery conveys to the reader an individual image of the planter's daughter, in this poem she represents an ideal Ireland, where both native and planter cultures are fused to create a greater one. The poem has contemporary overtones, as Clarke is concerned with the national-unionist divide in Ireland at the time and his portrait of the planter's daughter is designed to produce an image of a unified country. The setting for the poem is typical of the Irish countryside in a period prior to electrification. A local fishing community is gathered at night and the main topic of discussion was the beauty of the planter's daughter.

As in The Blackbird of Derrycairn and The Lost Heifer, Clarke accurately evokes the atmosphere, landscape and climate of Ireland, "When night stirred at sea". He uses all of the senses to create for the reader a powerful image of the planter's daughter, her beauty was "Music in mouth", this image conjures up the deep feeling associated with traditional song and the sense of adulation associated with the subject matter of the song. He continues "Men that had seen her drank deep and were silent", three senses are invoked in this image, sight, taste and sound. The suggestion here is that men were lost for words in describing her beauty, in contrast "the women were speaking wherever she went". The use of the 'w' sound indicates the difficulty in finding words that can define her beauty. The 'w' sound is one of the more unusual and it's usage in the second stanza shows the lengths that Clarke went to, to create this idea. The planter's daughter is awarded the highest possible accolade, "O she was the Sunday in every week". Here Clarke compares her to be one day of rest that the tenantry enjoyed in the week, the single day in which the tenantry reserved for worship and therefore indirectly she is put on a pedestal with the object of that worship, i.e. God.

Aspects of Clarke's Poetry

A) The Irish landscape and weather patterns provide an instantly recognisable backdrop to each of Clarke's poems. The opening stanza of The Lost Heifer is set against a background of mountain and valley "In the gap of the pure cold wind" a landscape typical of the south-west. The image becomes more precise when one includes the "black herds", the native breed of cattle adapted to hillside grazing. Clarke goes on to deal with the imagery of of Irish lowlands "The water hazes off the hazel" - "turning the silver out of dark grasses where the skylark had lain" - "In the meadow".

In the Blackbird of Derrycairn, two aspects of the Irish landscape are evoked by Clarke, a) the unspoiled, untamed countryside of the "forest track" and "hawthorn" - of the scene around Lough Erne. b) Set against this is the landscape of Christianity in little cells behind a cashel". This invokes an image of monastic settlement - a series of beehive huts, such as those we would associate with Sceilig Mhicil.

In the Planter's Daughter, there are again two aspects of the Irish landscape evoked by Clarke. In the opening stanza, Clarke draws a picture of a rural coastal community, he highlights the immediacy of the sea, "when the night stirred at sea and the fire brought a crowd in". The imposition of the plantations on the Irish landscape is reflected in the image "for the house of the planter is known by the trees".

The weather imagery in Clarke's poems is again unmistakably Irish, in The Lost Heifer, he speaks of mist and rain - "brightness drenching through the branches" - "turning silver out of dark grasses" and "water hazes". He also speaks of the gap of the pure cold wind".

There are no direct weather images in The Blackbird of Derrycairn, but, the bounteous flora referred to in the poem is however reflective of the Irish climate, he speaks of the brightness of the sunshine and the shouts of gillies in the morning around Lough Erne. In the Planter's Daughter, Clarke refers to oncoming night and the coldness that requires a fire, this again revokes the Irish climate.

B) Contemporary Message in Clarke's Poetry Clarke said that The Lost Heifer was written "at a period when our national identity was in crisis". The period was that of the civil war and the theme of the poem draws a parallel between the effects of English rule (pre-1921) and the civil war (1922-23) on Gaeilic Irish culture. In the tradition of the Jacobite poets, Clarke cloaks the real message of the poem beneath a layer of suggestive imagery. Whether imagery is used to denote the state of Irish Nationalism; rain representing the period of British rule, brightness, the Celtic Renaissance, and mist, the civil war. Clarke's concern in the poem are, the civil war would have as negative effect on Gaelic culture and the national ideal as British rule had - "Was the mist becoming rain".

In the Blackbird of Derrycairn, Clarke is immediately concerned with the Ireland of the 1920’s and 1930’s and the negative effect for writers of the censorship laws imposed, he believes, as a result of the influence of the Catholic Church. The contemporary message in this poem is Clarke’s wish that Ireland be no longer a priest ridden society but a society in which the natural talents of it’s artists and writers would be allowed to flourish unhindered. Again in this poem the contemporary message is not apparent on first reading. The imagery and seemingly the theme are that of the original 18th Century Jacobite poem “Lionn Doire an Chairn”. However, the anti-church message is stingently put forward in the poem through the mouth-piece of the Blackbird. There is no debate in this poem, rather a monologue on the Blackbird’s part, which sets out to glorify the Pagan way of life and to see the Christian tradition in terms of imprisonment, mourning and discipline. What Clarke is saying there is that Ireland must shake off it’s Catholic Conservation and must allow culture to develop in closer communion with nature and our Celtic heritage.