herald

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rhyme and Reason

Padraic Colum

1881-1972

THE poems Padraic Colum wrote are woven into the tapestry of Irish literature. She Moved Through The Fair, The Drover, The Ploughman, The Spanish Lady, The Cradle Song are so well-known that many have forgotten who the author was.

Colum provided a link between the writers of the Irish Literary Renaissance of Yeats, Lady Gregory, and the new culture they were embracing.

Apart from his poetry, his play, The Fiddler's House, was a landmark in the Abbey, the first realistic play in the English language.

This brilliant little man was the son of a stationmaster at Sandycove railway station, which may surprise some who thought of him as a full-blooded culchie from the plains.

He left Ireland early to go to America. It is generally held that it was his wife Molly who persuaded him to leave Dublin, where people had talked of him as Yeats' successor.

She towered over him so much that she used to persuade him to bring her on stage at lectures to bask in the reflected glory.

After Molly's death, when Colum was in his 70s, he came back to Ireland for three months every year where I used to meet him, curled up like a pussy cat delighted with himself at 11 Edenvale Road, where he lived with his sister Mrs Ruth who peered at you through the lace curtains as you knocked at the door.

During these visits he wrote plays for the Lantern Theatre run by Liam Miller and achieved almost iconic status when he gave poetry readings.

He was a very kind man who took an interest in young writers. I was lucky enough to see him in the last few weeks before his death in a nursing home in America. He was still chirpy with eyes that sparkled whenever he talked about Dublin, where I had just come from.

His most famous poem She Moved Through The Fair, which the famous composer Sir Herbert Hughes set to music with Colum's help and created what some regard as the finest blend of poetry and music in the language.

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