Padraic Colum

(8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972 / County Longford)

Biography of Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum poet

an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children's author and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Celtic Revival.

Early life

Colum was born Patrick Collumb in a County Longford workhouse, where his father worked. He was the first of eight children born to Patrick and Susan Collumb. When the father lost his job in 1889, he moved to the United States to participate in the Colorado gold rush. Padraic and his mother and siblings remained in Ireland. When the father returned in 1892, the family moved to Glasthule, near Dublin, where his father was employed as Assistant Manager at Sandycove and Glasthule railway station. His son attended the local national school.

When Susan Collumb died in 1897, the family was temporarily split up. Padraic (as he would be known) and one brother remained in Dublin, while their father and remaining children moved back to Longford. Colum finished school the following year and at the age of seventeen, he passed an exam for and was awarded a clerkship in the Irish Railway Clearing House. He stayed in this job until 1903.

During this period, Colum started to write and met a number of the leading Irish writers of the time, including W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Æ. He also joined the Gaelic League and was a member of the first board of the Abbey Theatre. He became a regular user of the National Library of Ireland, where he met James Joyce and the two became lifelong friends .During the riots caused by the Abbey Theatre's production of The Playboy of the Western World, Colum, with Arthur Griffith, was the leader of those inciting the protests, which, as he later remarked, cost him his friendship with Yeats.

He collected Irish folk songs, including the famous She Moved Through the Fair, for which Colum wrote most of the words, with the musicologist Herbert Hughes. He was awarded a five year scholarship to University College Dublin by a wealthy American benefactor, Thomas Kelly.

Early poetry and plays

He was awarded a prize by Cumann na nGaedheal for his anti-enlistment play, The Saxon Shillin'. Through his plays he became involved with the National Theatre Society and became involved in the founding of the Abbey Theatre, writing several of its early productions. His play, Broken Sail(revised as The Fiddler's House) (1903) was performed by the Irish Literary Theatre. The Land (1905), was one of that theatre's first great public successes. He wrote another important play for the Abbey named Thomas Muskerry (1910).

His earliest published poems appeared in The United Irishman, a paper edited by Arthur Griffith. His first book, Wild Earth (1907) collected many of these poems and was dedicated to Æ. He published several poems in Arthur Griffith's paper, The United Irishman this time, with The Poor Scholar bringing him to the attention of WB Yeats. He became a friend of Yeats and Lady Gregory. In 1908, he wrote an introduction to the Everyman's Library edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

In 1911, with Mary Gunning Maguire, a fellow student from UCD, and David Houston and Thomas MacDonagh, he founded the short-lived literary journal The Irish Review, which published work by Yeats, George Moore, Oliver St John Gogarty, and many other leading Revival figures.

In 1912 he married Maguire, who was working at Patrick Pearse's experimental school, St Enda's, Rathfarnam, County Dublin. At first the couple lived in the Dublin suburb of Donnybrook, where they held a regular Tuesday literary salon. They then moved to Howth, a small fishing village just to the north of the capital. In 1914, they traveled to the USA for what was intended to be a visit of a few months but lasted eight years.

Later life and work

In America, Colum took up children's writing and published a number of collections of stories for children, beginning with The King of Ireland's Son (1916). This book came about when Colum started translating an Irish folk tale from Gaelic because he did not want to forget the language; After it was published in the New York Tribune, Hungarian Illustrator Willy Pógany suggested the possibility of a book collaboration, so Colum wove the folktale into a long, epic story.

Three of his books for children were awarded retrospective citations for the Newbery Honor. A contract for children's literature with Macmillan Publishers made him financially secure for the rest of his life. Some other books he wrote are The Adventure of Odysseus (1918) and The Children of Odin (1920). These works are important for bringing classical literature to children.

In 1922 he was commissioned to write versions of Hawaiian folklore for young people. This resulted in the publication of three volumes of his versions of tales from the island. First editions of this work were presented to US president Barack Obama by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the occasion of his visit to Dublin, Ireland on 23 May 2011. Colum also started writing novels. These include Castle Conquer (1923) and The Flying Swans (1937). The Columns spent the years from 1930 to 1933 living in Paris and Nice, where Padraic renewed his friendship with James Joyce and became involved in the transcription of Finnegans Wake.

After their time in France, the couple moved to New York City, where they both did some teaching at Columbia University and CCNY. Colum was a prolific author and published a total of 61 books, not counting his plays. He adopted the form of Noh drama in his later plays. Molly died in 1957 and Pádraic finished Our Friend James Joyce, which they had worked on together before her death. It was published in 1958. Colum divided his later years between the United States and Ireland. In 1961 the Catholic Library Association awarded him the Regina Medal. He died in Enfield, Connecticut, aged 90, and was buried in St. Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton.

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest the last name was the same as the word column. "In my first name, the first a has the sound of au. The ordinary pronunciation in Irish is pau'drig." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)

Padraic Colum's Works:

Selected Works

(1902) The Saxon Shillin' (Play)
(1903) Broken Sail (Play)
(1905) The Land (Play)
(1907) Wild Earth (Book)
(1907) The Fiddlers' House (Play)
(1910) Thomas Muskerry (Play)
(1916) The King of Ireland's Son (New Sample of old Irish Tales)
(1917) Mogu the Wanderer (Play)
(1918) The Children's Homer (Novel) Collier Books, ISBN 9780020425205
(1920) The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter, (Novel) The Macmillan Company
(1920) Children of Odin: Nordic Gods and Heroes
(1921) The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles (Novel), Ill. by Willy Pogany The Macmillan company
(1923) The Six Who Were Left in a Shoe (Children's Story)
(1923) Castle Conquer (Novel)
(1929) The Strindbergian Balloon (Play)
(1932) Poems (collected) Macmillan & Co
(1933) The Big Tree of Bunlahy: Stories of My Own Countryside (Children's stories) Ill. by Jack Yeats
(1937) The Story of Lowry Maen (Epic Poem)
(1943) The Frenzied Prince (Compilation of Irish Tales)
(1957) The Flying Swans (Novel)
(1958) Our Friend James Joyce (Memoir) (With Molly Colum)
(1965) Padraic Colum Reading His Irish Tales and Poems (Album, Folkways Records)

As editor:

(1922) Anthology of Irish Verse Liveright, 1948; Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2009, ISBN 9781437487596

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PoemHunter.com Updates

Monkeys

Two little creatures
with faces the size of
a pair of pennies
are clasping each other
"Ah do not leave me"
One says to the other
in the high monkey -
cage in the beast shop
there are no people

[Hata Bildir]