17 March 2019

17th March - St Patrick's Day


17th March is St Patrick's Day, a day where the Irish celebrate with pride their nationality.

The Irish poet Austin Clarke uses St Patrick's Day to recreate his own experience of going to St Patrick Asylum, Dublin, in 1919. He suffered a breakdown shortly after getting married. He writes in the poem 'Mnemosyne Lay in Dust', published in 1966, the account of being taken away, his freedom taken from him, his experience of loosing his memories and identity in that place, and only a few months later finding himself again. The poem is written in the character Maurice Devane ...

Past the house where he was got
In darkness, terrace, provision shop,
Wing-hidden convent opposite,
Past public-houses at lighting-up
Time, crowds outside them – Maurice Devane
Watched from the taxi window in vain
National stir and gaiety
Beyond himself ...

Then his worst fears became real as the iron gates are shut, his clothes stripped from him; he is then plunged in a bath with people watching. The experiences make his condition worse for a long time, during which he becomes paranoid; is thrown in a padded cell; and force fed.

Only near the end does being presented with strawberries bring back something of his old self, the red strawberries contrast with everything grey and white in the asylum.

Austin Clarke lived from 1896 - 1974. More about him in Austin Clarke (poet) - Wikipedia.

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