‘The gantelope of sense and nonsense run’: Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates in the 1930s

  • Onno Kosters
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


With Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates (1935), Beckett published a poetry collection addressing a number of highly personal issues and set in often distinctly Modernist, urban settings (Dublin, London, Paris). The poems offer idiosyncratic meeting points of words and allusions that seem to take their cues from the experimental poetry created by Dada and the surrealists, from Joyce, Eliot, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Goethe, and Dante, as well as from two important Modernist ‘manifestos’ (‘The Revolution of the Word’, 1929, and ‘Poetry is Vertical’, 1932).

My article looks at pre-modernist and modernist intersections in Echo’s Bones. It discusses the overall composition of the collection as well as structure, lay-out, and several interpretations of individual poems. It discusses how the Elizabethan author Edmund Spenser is referenced in Echo’s Bones, and how his presence might provide a significant key to understanding how Beckett establishes a political engagement with the recently founded Irish Free State (1922).


  1. ———. 2005. Obscure Locks, Simple Keys: The Annotated Watt. Tallahassee: JOBS Books.Google Scholar
  2. ———. 2007. Fairy-Tales and Flagellation: Samuel Beckett’s ‘Sanies II’. Fulcrum 6: 145–164.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, Judith H., Donald Cheney, and David A. Richardson. 1996. Spenser’s Life and the Subject of Biography. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, Jean. 1910. La Musique des troubadours. Paris: Henri Laurens Editeur.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, Karen. 2011. Thomas MacGreevy and Irish Modernism: Between World and Image. In Irish Modernism: Origins, Contexts, Publics, ed. Edwina Keown et al., 95–110. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  6. Buning, Marius. 1994. Joyce and Beckett’s Master Trope: The Chiasmus. In In Principle, Beckett is Joyce, ed. Friedhelm Rathjen, 45–60. Edinburgh: Split Pea Press.Google Scholar
  7. Byrne, Katherine. 2010. Tuberculosis and the Victorian Imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Coe, Richard N. 1977. The Barest Essentials. Times Literary Supplement, July 15, p. 873.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2001. A Beckett Canon. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coughlan, Patricia. 1955. ‘The Poetry is Another Pair of Sleeves’: Beckett, Ireland and Modernist Lyric Poetry. In Modernism and Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s, ed. Patricia Coughlan and Alex Davis, 173–208. Cork: Cork University Press.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 1964. Beckett’s Verse: Influences and Parallels. The French Review 37 (3): 320–331.Google Scholar
  12. Garratt, Robert F. 1989. Modern Irish Poetry: Tradition and Continuity from Yeats to Heaney. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gilles, Alan. 2005. Irish Poetry of the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hamilton, A.C., ed. 1990. The Spenser Encyclopaedia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  15. Harvey, Lawrence. 1970. Samuel Beckett: Poet and Critic. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Jolas, Eugène. 2009a. Proclamation (‘Revolution of the Word’, June 1929). In Critical Writings, 1924–1951, ed. Klaus H. Kiefer and Rainer Rumold, 111–112. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2009b. ‘Poetry is Vertical’ (1932). In Critical Writings, 1924–1951, ed. Klaus H. Kiefer and Rainer Rumold, 266–267. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Joyce, James. 1939. Finnegans Wake. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 1966. Letters of James Joyce, vol. II. Ed. Richard Ellmann. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 2012. Edmund Spenser, Famine Memory and the Discontents of Humanism in Endgame. In Angela Moorjani et al., eds. Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui 24: 105–122.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 1996b. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kosters, Onno. 1992. ‘Whey of Words’: Beckett’s Poetry from Whoroscope to ‘What is the Word’. Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui 1: 93–105.Google Scholar
  23. Lydon, Mary. 1999. Beyond the Criterion of Genre: Samuel Beckett’s Ars Poetica. Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui 8: 59–74.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 1971. Collected Poems. Ed. Thomas Dillon Redshaw. Foreword by Samuel Beckett. Dublin: New Writers’ Press.Google Scholar
  25. Mahon, Derek. 1984. A Noise Like Wings. Irish University Review 14 (1): 88–92.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2006. Watt Is the Word: The ‘Brief Scattered Lights’ of Beckett’s Poems. Times Literary Supplement 3: 12.Google Scholar
  27. Maude, Ulrika. 2011. Beckett, Technology and the Body. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Murphy, P.J., Werner Huber, Rolf Breuer, and Konrad Schoell. 1994. Critique of Beckett Criticism. Columbia: Camden House.Google Scholar
  29. Nixon, Mark. 2005. ‘A Brief Glow in the Dark’: Samuel Beckett’s Presence in Modern Irish Poetry. The Yearbook of English Studies 35: 43–57.Google Scholar
  30. Perloff, Marjorie. 1982. Between Verse and Prose: Beckett and the New Poetry. Critical Inquiry 9 (3): 415–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pilling, John. 1997. Beckett Before Godot. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. ———. 1999. Beckett and the Itch to Make: The Early Poems in English. Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui 8: 15–26.Google Scholar
  33. Spenser, Edmund. 1997. Edmund Spenser’s ‘Amoretti’ and ‘Epithalamium’: A Critical Edition. Ed. Kenneth J. Larsen. Tempe: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.Google Scholar
  34. ——— 2007b. The Faerie Queene Book Six and the Mutabilitie Cantos. Ed. Andrew Hadfield and Abraham Stoll. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  35. Van Es, Bart. 2006. A Critical Companion to Spenser Studies. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  36. Wheatley, David. 2005. Slippery Sam and Tomtinker Tim: Beckett and MacGreevy’s Urban Poetics. Irish Studies Review 13 (2): 189–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ackerley, C.J., and S.E. Gontarski. 2004. The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett: A Reader’s Guide to His Works, Life, and Thought. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  38. ———. 1998. No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider. Ed. Maurice Harmon. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Onno Kosters
    • 1
  1. 1.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtNetherlands

Personalised recommendations