Sunday, December 20, 2015

A W.B. Yeats Poem (3) / Francis Bacon, "Three Studies for Self-Portrait" (1976) / Peter O'Shaughnessy Reads

Cuchulain Comforted

A MAN that had six mortal wounds, a man
Violent and famous, strode among the dead;
Eyes stared out of the branches and were gone.

Then certain Shrouds that muttered head to head
Came and were gone. He leant upon a tree
As though to meditate on wounds and blood.

A Shroud that seemed to have authority
Among those bird-like things came, and let fall
A bundle of linen. Shrouds by two and three

Came creeping up because the man was still.
And thereupon that linen-carrier said:
'Your life can grow much sweeter if you will

'Obey our ancient rule and make a shroud;
Mainly because of what we only know
The rattle of those arms makes us afraid.

'We thread the needles' eyes, and all we do
All must together do.' That done, the man
Took up the nearest and began to sew.

'Now must we sing and sing the best we can,
But first you must be told our character:
Convicted cowards all, by kindred slain

'Or driven from home and left to die in fear.'
They sang, but had nor human tunes nor words,
Though all was done in common as before;

They had changed their throats and had the throats of birds.


1 comment:

  1. More on the late, great Peter O'Shaughnessy:

    Published on Dec 23, 2013

    Here's a virtual movie of the late Peter O'Shaughnessy O.A.M (1923 - 2013), the celebrated Australian/Irish actor, director and folklorist, reciting "Cuchulain Comforted" by W. B. Yeats. I briefly got to know Peter earlier this year having known his name from my collection of Australian poetry records which he recorded from the 1950's to the 1960's. I sent him copies of his recordings of records he had made all those years ago, and had long lost copies for which he was delighted. We quickly agreed to collaborate in a few animations and he sent me numerous mp3's from his archive of him reciting all manner of amazing poetry and Irish folklore related recordings and photographs of him he had made from which this very rare recording comes from. Sadly I never had time to get to know him properly as at 89 he was destined to pass away just a couple of months later in July this year. Peter wanted me to bring to life his recordings and it is my intention to do many more virtual movies of this great man reciting poems and other great works of literature.

    "Cuchulain Comforted" from Irish and Gaelic folklore is a powerful commentary on acceptance of death and of the way in which it both levels and elevates the meanings of individual lives. In the afterlife, the great hero Cuchulain finds himself reduced to sewing shrouds in common with convicted cowards. In previous works by Yeats, he has gradually understood the bitter truth that valuing his own power over human relationships has led to destroying his own son, and that the sacrifices of his neglected wife Emer are more noble than any of his bloody deeds. He also learns that every physical death involves the degrading of the flesh and betrayal by that which is mean-spirited in man (the Blind Man of \"The Death of Cuchulain\"). By sewing the shroud, he accepts the limitations of death, including the fact that he shares the same fate as the most degraded of men. But this acceptance ironically transforms them all into birdlike spirits who have thrown off the pains and limits of life.Cú Chulainn, also spelt Cú Chulaind or Cúchulainn ([kuːˈxʊlˠɪnʲ] ( listen); Irish for "Culann's Hound") and sometimes known in English as Cuhullin /kəˈhʊlɨn/, is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. The son of the god Lugh and Deichtine (sister of Conchobar mac Nessa), his childhood name was Sétanta.

    Peter O'Shaughnessy OAM, has presented the work of playwrights ranging from Shakespeare, Shaw, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov to modern dramatists, such as Ionesco, Pinter and Beckett. He is best known as mentor to and collaborator with Barry Humphries in his early career. O'Shaughnessy was a major exponent of Samuel Beckett, both in Australia and in Ireland. He produced the first "Waiting for Godot" in Australia in 1957.

    Kind Regards,

    Jim Clark