Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Our American Cousin's latest posting has nagged at Malcolm for the last day or so. He quotes the lines from Patrick Kavanagh, from the western side of Austin Kelly's statue of Jim Larkin in Dublin's O'Connell Street, close to the General Post Office. Looked at from that side , the statue also stands proudly outline against Clery's Department Store, once owned by William Martin Murphy, leader of the Dublin employers during the 1913 lock-out. Now that's class, that is.

Malcolm instantly expects a correction: wait for it ... Here it comes! "It's Oisín Kelly, dumb skull."

And, indeed he was and is. But he was Austin Kelly while he taught Art at St Columba's College, Rathfarnham in 1956-8, when Malcolm's alter ego was in his class and the same year as Patrick Kelly, Austin's/Oisín's son.

Let's suppress Malcolm's logorrhoeic need to fill every crevice with useless detail. Kavanagh's poem was an elegy, written immediately after Larkin's death (30th January 1947) and it was first published in The Bell for March of that year:

Jim Larkin

Not with public words now can his greatness
Be told to the children, for he was more
Than a labour-agitating orator —
The flashing flaming sword merely bore witness

To the coming of the dawn. ‘Awake and look!

The flowers are growing for you, and wonderful trees,

And beyond are not the serf’s grey docks, but seas —

Excitement out of the creator’s poetry book.
When the Full Moon’s in the River the ghost of bread

Must not haunt all your weary wanderings home.

The ships that were dark galleys can become

Pine forests under the winter’s starry plough

And the brown gantries will be the lifted hand

Of man the dreamer whom the gods endow.’

And thus I hear Jim Larkin shout above
The crowd who wanted him to turn aside

From Reality coming to free them. Terrified

They hid in the clouds of dope and would not move.

They ate the opium of the murderer’s story

In the Sunday newspapers; they stood to stare

Not at a blackbird, but at a millionaire

Whose horses ran for serfdom’s greater glory.

And Tyranny trampled them in Dublin’s gutter,

Until Larkin came along and cried

The call of Freedom and the call of Pride,

And Slavery crept to its hands and knees,

And Nineteen Thirteen cheered from out the utter

Degradation of their miseries.

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1 comment:

yourcousin said...

I was actually not impressed by the monument itself. For me, labor's struggle is intensely personal. so the teeming bustle of tourists and Dubliners going about their evceryday lives detracted quite a bit for me. But that quote jumped out at me and has been with me ever since.

In the same way that Connolly's statue was moving but the crowning part was the graffitti on it that stated simply, "I Wish He'd Won".

To me the the glaring point is that the poem talks noting of wages and benefits, but of Pride and Dignity. Two points which are barely recognizable in today's labor movement.

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