Louis MacNeice’s Ireland

  • Terence Brown


It was always a place to reject. It would always represent in one of its manifestations an intimation of primal terror, of those forces which can overwhelm a self-hood insecurely possessed of its own identity. Ireland for MacNeice is therefore a place of hauntings, where dark ghosts of the past cannot be laid to rest. The sources of this vision of Irish reality lie, as is by now well-known, in the poet’s own haunted Northern Irish childhood, chillingly addressed in his poem ‘Autobiography’:

When I was five the black dreams came;

Nothing after was quite the same.

Come back early or never come.

The dark was talking to the dead;

The lamp was dark beside my bed.

Come back early or never come.1


Human Consciousness Native Country Ireland Background Modern Poetry Collect Poem 
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  1. 1.
    The Collected Poems of Louis MacNeice, edited by E. R. Dodds (London, 1979), pp. 183–4. All references to MacNeice’s poetry are to this volume, referred to in the text as Collected Poems.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Strings are False, edited by E. R. Dodds (London, 1965) p. 17.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (London, 1977) p. 14.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Ibid., p. 20.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Samuel Beckett, Footfalls (London, 1976) p. 11.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    They Stand Together: the Letters of C S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves 1914–1963, edited by Walter Hooper (London, 1979) p. 432.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Ibid., p. 433Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Quoted by Deirdre Bair, Samuel Beckett: a Biography (London, 1978) p. 19.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Edna Longley, ‘Autumn Journal’, The Honest Ulsterman, no. 73 (Sept. 1983) p. 71.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Ibid., p. 72.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    See Samuel Hynes, ‘Yeats and the Poets of the Thirties’ in Modern Irish Literature, edited by Raymond J. Porter and James D. Brophy (New York, 1972) pp. 1–22.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Louis MacNeice, The Poetry of W. B. Yeats with a foreword by Richard Ellmann (London, 1967) p. 15.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Ibid., p. 16.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Letters of C. S. Lewis, W. H. Lewis (London, 1966) p. 57.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: a Biography (London, 1979) p. 67.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Hugh Kenner, A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett (London, 1973) p. 163.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Samuel Beckett, Ill Seen Ill Said (London, 1982) p. 42.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Edna Longley, ‘Louis MacNeice: the Walls are Flowing’ in Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley (eds), Across a Roaring Hill: the Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland (Belfast and Dover, New Hampshire, 1985) p. 103.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    C. S. Lewis, Perelandra, (London, 1983) p. 14.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Ibid., pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  21. 28.
    C. S. Lewis, Poems, edited by Walter Hooper (London, 1964) p. 72.Google Scholar
  22. 30.
    Louis MacNeice, Varieties of Parable (Cambridge, 1965) p. 143.Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    Time Was Away: The World of Louis MacNeice, edited by T. Brown and A. Reid (Dublin, 1974) p. 3.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    Ibid., p. 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Terence Brown and Nicholas Grene 1989

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  • Terence Brown

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