Louis Macneice

(12 September 1907 – 3 September 1963 / Belfast)

Carrickfergus


I was born in Belfast between the mountain and the gantries
To the hooting of lost sirens and the clang of trams:
Thence to Smoky Carrick in County Antrim
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  • Jack Upland (8/16/2005 12:39:00 AM)

    In this poem, Macneice reflects on his childhood in Northern Ireland, being in Ireland but not of Ireland. He sets up a number of binary oppositions in the course of the poem, which should make any post-structuralist happy. In the first line he confounds our expectations by substituting 'gantries' for the more obvious sea. So we have the juxtaposition of industry and nature. But the most important binarism is the distinction between the English occupation of Ireland (and their Scottish auxiliaries) and the 'Irish poor'. The national differences are reinforced by the Protestant/Catholic divide and economic inequality (the neat 'Scotch Quarter' versus the Irish 'slum') . As the son of a Church of England minister of Scottish ancestry, Macniece belongs with the occupiers but somehow longs to be accepted by the Irish people - as expressed as 'the mill girls, the smell of porter'. He is also very conscious of the violence and suffering beneath this picturesque setting, including in the less explicit references to 'lost sirens', a 'funeral cry', the Norman conquerors, the Crucifixition, gibbets (echoed by puppets later) , 'salt mines' etc. As with the other British 'Thirties Poets' he is conscious of the gap between his socialist sympathies and his privileged position as an intellectual. (Report) Reply

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