A journey from Mangan's Ann Tiquity to Joyce's Anna Livia

The Irish literary revival was haunted by the desire for a national epic. From Ulysses we see that this was a pressing issue in 1904; in the scene in the National Library literary discussion turns to the very topic, and Mr Best remarks: "Our national epic has yet to be written, Dr Sigerson says. Moore is the man for it" (9.309–10).

James Joyce (1882-1941) recited from MEMORY poems and prose in multiple languages. All the writers he enjoyed became part of his living embodied experience. James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849) was renowned for having a phenomenal memory. Mangan had an innate connection through his upbringing with ancient Ireland.

The Capaquin Annual tells us Mangan's father was from West Limerick, a Gaeltacht area and home to the elder bard of Shanagolden, Sean Clarach (Clarence) Mac Donnell who would preside at Courts of Poetry at Rathluire.
Born in Dublin 'the old folklore' was about him in Fishamble St a stone's throw from the River Liffey where country visitors 'sat up to midnight drinking whiskey and spouting Sean Clarach'.

Mary Smith, his mother was from the Gaelic family of MacGabhann, Dunsany in Co Meath. He was taught initially by Fr Graham returned from Salamanca and Palermo. Then moved to a school in Derby Square and Michael Courtney taught him, who wrote the almanacs and was part of the MacCuarta family from Newry.

Mangan at 15 worked as a copier from five in the morning until eleven at night, supporting his family necessitated 'the dull drudgery of the desk's dead wood' and continued for seven years. He gave himself a middle name 'Clarence' after Sean Clarach and would fight for his poetic being 'why it was that I should be called upon to sacrifice the immortal for the mortal; to give away irredeemably the Promethean fire within me'.

The 'dead desk' language was brutal for Mangan and his aliveness in poetic language catapulted him as a matter of survival to nurture this innate poetic sensibility.
He recited Ovid in long stretches walking in the moonlight. Mangan would ponder Ovid's "Omnia mutantur, nihil interit" (everything changes, nothing perishes), in 'Metamorphoses' (15.165).

In 1822 in York Street, Dublin, he found himself living down the road from the Reverend Charles Robert Maturin, author of the Gothic novel "Melmoth the Wanderer". It described a Faustian pact with Satan for 150 extra years of life and entrée to a condemned existence -never present but always there –.
("Melmoth the Wanderer" influenced writers such as Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Alexander Pushkin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and his grand-nephew, Oscar Wilde.) As a child, Mangan followed Maturin along the streets and heard him preach many times. In 1817 on the death of Princess Charlotte, Reverend Maturin declared: "Life is full of death; the steps of the living cannot press the earth without disturbing the ashes of the dead – we walk upon our ancestors – the globe itself is one vast churchyard".

Maturin was a catalyst for Mangan's fascination with the frontier between the Living and the Dead and he would read in German, Justinus Kerner's "Revelations of Madame Hauffe, the Wirtemberg Ghost Seeress". Württemberg," the homeland of haunted and spectral doings, of the wonders of the spiritual life and of the dream-world." Mangan's "Chapters on Ghostcraft' is based extensively on the work of the Justinus Kerner and he quotes Madame Hauffe: 'It is from this Middle State of Souls that the ghosts come to me. They come that I may say something tranquil to them."

When Mangan translated he 'recreated' and in Friedrich's Schiller's poems exploring the world of reality and the realm of the essence he replaced in "The Word of Reality" words for god and 'the idea supreme' with his own phrase 'ancient of days'. He frequently added words like ancient and antique into the original texts.

Mangan experienced language as a way of travelling back through time. Ann Tiquity in an early article 'The Two Flats' has antiquity personified as an old woman.

Mangan upheld a freedom to imagine a past not antiquated but resurgent in a living language. This Gaelic Antiquity emerged through the links he made between cultural relics songs, poems and stories translated from Irish.

Mangan's poetic fusion was not bound by facts but a poetic sensibility from which he created new synergies. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy speaks of him, during The Nation years, as "so purely a poet that he shrank from all other exercises of his intellect."
In December 1839, after revealing that he had been prevented from reading or translating German poetry for several months by an attack of 'intellectual hypochondriasis', Mangan commented, 'Whence it originated we ourself can hazard no conjecture; for who shall fathom the abysses of the human mind?'

Mangan gives an account of his process in an "An Extraordinary Adventure in the Shades "What was to be done ? Hastily to discuss the remainder of my wine, to order a fresh bottle, and to drink six or eight glasses in rapid succession, was the operation of a few minutes. And oh, what a change !..... I wore the cumbrous habiliments of flesh and blood no longer ; the shell, hitherto the circumscriber of my soul, was shivered ; I stood out in front of the universe a visible and tangible intellect, and beheld, with giant grasp, the key that had power to unlock the deep prison which enclosed the secrets of antiquity and futurity"

James Clarence Mangan's 'Literæ Orientales',were six articles published in the Dublin University Magazine between 1837 and 1846. Mangan's translations of Persian and Turkish poems were not a reductive cerebral blunting but a new fusion and as he succinctly said of 'An Ode of Hafiz', 'Ah, it is only Half-his.'
The lulling music of Tigris' flow
Was blended with echoes from many a mosque As the muezzin chanted the Allah-el-illah:
Yet my heart in that hour was low,
For I stood in the ruined Kiosk Of the Caliph Moostanzar-Billah;
I mused alone in the ruined Kiosk Of the mighty Moostanzar-Billah."

"I must write in a variety of styles; and it wouldn't do for me to don the turban, and open my poem with a Bismillah; when I write a poem to the Arab Mohir-Ibn-Mohir – Ibn Khalakan is the man from whom it should come; and to him I give it … When I write as a Persian, I feel as a Persian, and am transported back to the days of Diemsheed and the Genii."
"The only way a European can appreciate Oriental poetry is to 'disencumber himself of all the old rags of his Europeanism and scatter them to the winds.' Persian is 'coeval with the earliest dawn of civilization among mankind.'
On 15 February 1902, James Joyce, aged 20, read a paper on James Clarence Mangan to the Literary and Historical Society of what is now University College, Dublin.

"East and West meet in that personality (we know how); images interweave there like soft, luminous scarves and words ring like brilliant mail, and whether the song is of Ireland or of Istambol it has the same refrain…"

"The lore of many lands goes with him always, eastern tales and the memory of curiously printed medieval books which have rapt him out of his time— gathered together day by day and embroidered as in a web. He has acquaintance with a score of languages, of which, upon occasion, he makes a liberal parade, and has read recklessly in many literatures, crossing how many seas, and even penetrating into Peristan, to which no road leads that the feet travel."

"He must have been conscious that his rhythms were nothing short of innovations. Nearly everything which bears his name has a voluptuous dance-measure which no one had written before: a beauty so novel and compelling, that it is remarkable it has lacked recognition."

"The time is come wherein a man of timid courage seizes the keys of hell and death, and flings them far out into the abyss, proclaiming the praise of life, which the abiding splendour of truth may sanctify, and of death, the most beautiful form of life. In those vast courses which enfold us and in that great memory which is greater and more generous than our memory, no life, no moment of exaltation is ever lost; and all those who have written nobly have not written in vain, though the desperate and weary have never heard the silver laughter of wisdom. Nay, shall not such as these have part, because of that high, original purpose which remembering painfully or by way of prophecy they would make clear, in the continual affirmation of the spirit?
Mangan in 1833 'An Extroardinary Adventure in the Shade' "I must have known this man in some pre-adamite world; and the extraordinary sensations I experience in his presence, are explicable only by reference to an antenatal state of existence. He and I have been ancient companions...of a purer and loftier sphere.'

Mangan was referring to John Bowring (1792-1872) "a universal linguist, a master of dead and living languages" and so being hesitant 'Not to betray any philological inability' on his part he highlights an alternative journey, replacing scholarship with the truth inherent in the language itself.

Mangus's decision not to be cerebral but to use his prodigious memory to embody poetic language being sourced from the ancient Irish was apparent in the Ordinance Survey office where he worked alongside the eminent Irish scholars Eugene Curry and John O' Donovan. They recognised that Mangan was attuned to the ancients and he linked Antiquity to Modernity, treating them as 'coeval modes'.

Joyce was unreserved in his praise of Mangan's poetry: "He might have written a treatise on the poetical art for he is more cunning in his use of the musical echo than is Poe, the high priest of most modern schools, and there is a mastery, which no school can teach, but which obeys an interior command, which we may trace in 'Kathaleen-Ny-Houlahan', where the refrain changes the trochaic scheme abruptly for a line of firm, marching iambs."

LONG they pine in weary woe - the nobles of our land -
Long they wander to and fro, proscribed, alas! and banned;
Feastless, houseless, altarless, they bear the exie's brand,
But their hope is in the coming-to of Kathaleen Ny-Houlahan.

The Time of the Barmecides
There runs thro' all the dells of Time
No stream like Youth again
The Time of the Barmecides
'May I soon go down to the House of Clay
Where stirred my Youth compeers!
For with them and the Past, though the thought wakes woe,
My memory ever abides;
And I mourn for the Times long ago,
For the Times of the Barmedides!
I mourn for the Times long ago,
For the Times of the Barmedides!
1840 translated from the Gaelic (John' Donovon)

Prince Aldfrid's Itinerary Through Ireland

I found in Innisfail the fair,
In Ireland, while in exile there,

Women of worth, both grave and gay men,
Many clerics and many laymen.

I travelled its fruitful provinces round,
And in every one of the five I found,
Alike in church and in palace hall,
Abundant apparel, and food for all.

Gold and silver I found in money ;
Plenty of wheat and plenty of honey ;

I also found in Armagh the splendid,
Meekness, wisdom, and prudence blended,

'O'Hussey's Ode to the Maguire'
17th century poem about Hugh Maguire
Medreams I see just now his face, the strawberry-bright,
Uplifted to the blackened heavens, while the tempestuous winds 
Blow fiercely over and round him, and the smiting sleet-shower blinds
The hero of Galang to-night!

A Lamentation for the death of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry
Not for churls with souls of hucksters
Waileth our Banshee!
For the high Milesian race alone
Ever flows the music of her woe!
For slain heir to bygone throne,
And for Chief laid low!
Hark!... Again, methinks, I hear her weeping
Yonder! Is she near me now, as then?
Or was but the night-wind sweeping
Down the hollow glen?

Irish mythology was energised by Mangan and fused with his absorption of other cultures it was not parochial but sang of cosmic truths. Joyce recognised in Mangan this distinction between poetry and history.
"Poetry makes no account of history, which is fabled by the daughters of memory, but sets store by every time less than the pulsation of an artery, the time in which its intuitions start forth, holding it equal in its period and value to six thousand years."

Mangan assisted John O'Donovan with his work on the most ancient Irish text "Annals of the Four Masters" and also helped Owen Connellan with a rival more populist publication. John O Donovan was recruited to the Topographical Department of the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland under George Petrie in October 1830 and investigated 62,000 towns-lands and indexed 144,000 names and maps.

'We lived in the antiquity as we read.' Mangan used this scholarship as a launch pad to be poetically airborne within a more ancient language form.

Eugene O'Curry was responsible for the transcripts of Irish manuscripts from which O'Donovan edited 'The Annals of the Four Masters" between 1848 and 1851. The catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the British Museum (1849) was compiled by him. (At the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland in1854, Curry was appointed professor of Irish history and archaeology.)

The scholars valued Mangan's power of recreating the spirit and sense of the original in verse form. When O' Donovan edited Aenghus O Daly's satire 'The Tribes of Ireland' it was published with Mangan's versified paraphrase, a poetic reincarnation more evocative than any literal translation. 'Manganese drollery buy behold, it is the real O'Daly."
Tlie Clan-Carthy are vain — but as deep as a churn.
They grasp all you have, and give words in return ;
What good deeds you do them are written in water.
But injure them once and they doom you to slaughter.
The Mac Auliffes* I loathe, for I never could yet
Take to humbug and humdrums, slow coaches and dumb drums.
They're a lazy, yet saucy, and cock-nosish set ;
They sleep upon beds of green heather.
And eat all that falls in their way — lamb or leather.

In 1839 James Clarence Mangan wrote 'A Sixty-Drop Dose of Laudanum' and in that work he declared: 'I should far and away prefer being a great necromancer to being a great writer or even a great fighter'
"My natural propensities lead me rather to seek out modes of astonishing mankind than of edifying them. Herein I and my propensities are clearly wrong; but somehow I find that almost everything that is natural in me is wrong also."

Mangan as part of his artistic immersion pushed the boundaries of Alcohol and Opium. Mesopotamia knew and used the opium poppy as a source of narcotics in ancient times. Mangan's use of Opium allowed a different access to the Persian poets who used opium including Khwaja Shams-ud-Din, Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi, Abu Ḥamid bin Abu Bakr Ibrahim (Farid ud-Din) and Aṭṭar of Nishapur.

Keat's used Laudanum to treat his brother for TB and La Belle Dame sans Merci, arose from Opium reveries also much of the writing of Coleridge and De Quincey and many other poets of his time.

Mangan describes his creative process: 'My mode of forming an opinion suiteth myself and scan- daliseth nobody. I take a few facts, not caring to be over- whelmed by too many proofs that they are facts. With them I mix up a dish of the marvellous — perhaps an old wife's tale, perhaps a half-remembered dream or mesmeric experience of my own, and the business is done. My conclusion is reached and shelved, and must not thenceforward be disturbed. I would as soon think at any time afterwards of questioning its truth as of doubting the veritable existence of the barber's five brothers in the 'Arabian Nights, or the power of Keyn Alasnam, King of the Genii. There it is, and an opponent may battle with me anent it if he pleases. I manage to hold my ground by the help of digressions and analogies.'

John O'Daly engaged him to prepare the translations in "The Poets and Poetry of Munster" Douglas Hyde tells how it was Mangan's "custom to stretch his body halfway across the counter, while John [O'Daly] would translate the Irish song to him and [he] would versify it . .

Joyce, said to Padraic Colum: 'there is more intensity in a single passage of Mangan than in all Swift's writings.' Mangan showed Joyce how to engage with language as a living entity back through to the ancients be they Irish, Turkish or Persian. Mangan with the ear of a poet created a journey through time, a re-embodied appropriation (bringing the past to the present) rather than translation. It was this embodied intimacy from ancient times that triggered an excitement in Joyce.

"Every age must look for its sanction to its poetry and philosophy, for in these the human mind, as it looks backward or forward, attains to an eternal state."

"But the ancient gods, who are visions of the divine names, die and come to life many times, and, though there is dusk about their feet and darkness in their indifferent eyes, the miracle of light is renewed eternally in the imaginative soul."

"Finally, it must be asked concerning every artist how he is in relation to the highest knowledge and to those laws which do not take holiday because men and times forget them. This is not to look for a message but to approach the temper which has made the work." James A. Joyce February 1, 1902

Further Reading:
Full text of "James Clarence Mangan, his selected poems;"

Charles Gavan Duffy, 'Personal Memories of James C. Mangan', Dublin Review, 142 (1908), 278–94

All rights reserved. Clara Mason, James Joyce Foundation.

Finnegans Wake twitterings