From his earliest period [see " Penal Law"] to his last - when he wrote the remarkable 'Tiresias' - Clarke was acutely conscious of the gap btwn romantic ideals - national, religious, or sexual - & the often dispiriting reality of people's lives. Flesh-&-blood people, both ordinary & extraordinary, typically were the protagonists of his poems.
In "The Subjection of Women," Clarke replies to Yeats' romanticized - & later, bitterly critical - images of Maude Gonne, Eva Gore-Booth & Constance Markievicz, w/ a paean to their struggles (& those of others he names) for Ireland's working poor & women. Tho he ends w/ an echo of the "fumbl[ing] in a greasy till," it not "Paudeen" & "Biddy" who attract Clarke's contempt.
The Subjection of Women
Contemporary Irish Poetry
edited by Anthony Bradley
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988
Over the hills the loose clouds rambled
From rock to gully where goat or ram
Might shelter. Below, the battering-ram
Broke in more cottages. Hope was gone
Until the legendary Maud Gonne,
for whom a poet lingered, sighed,
Drove out of mist upon a side-car,
Led back the homeless to broken fence,
Potato plot, their one defence,
And there, despite the threat of Peelers,
With risky shovel, barrow, peeling
Their coats off, eager young men
Jumped over bog-drain, stone to mend or
Restore the walls of clay; the police
Taking down names without a lease.
O she confronted the evictors
In Donegal, our victory.
When she was old and I was quickened
By syllables, I met her. Quickens
Stirred leafily in Glenmalure
Where story of Tudor battle had lured me.
I looked with wonder at the sheen
Of her golden eyes as though the Sidhe
Had sent a flame-woman up from ground
Where danger went, carbines were grounded.
Old now, by luck, I try to count
Those years. I never saw the Countess
Markievicz in her green uniform,
Cock-feathered slouched hat, her Fianna form
Fours. Form the railings of Dublin slums,
On the ricketty stairs the ragged slumped
At night. She knew what their poverty meant
In dirty laneway, tenement,
And fought for new conditions, welfare
When all was cruel, all unfair.
With speeches, raging as strong liquor,
Our big employers, bad Catholics,
Incited by Martin Murphy, waged
War on the poor and unwaged them.
Hundreds of earners were batoned, benighted,
When power and capital united.
Soon Connolly founded the Citizen Army
And taught the workers to drill, to arm.
Half-starving children were brought by ship
To Liverpool from lock-out, hardship.
"innocent souls are seized by kidnappers,
And proselytisers. Send back our kids!"
The Countess colled
With death at sandbags in the College
Of Surgeons. How many did she shoot
When she kicked off her satin shoes?
Women rose out after the Rebellion
When smoke of buildings hid the churchbells,
Helena Maloney, Louie Bennett
Unioned the women workers bent
At sewing machines in the by-rooms
Of Dublin, with little money to buy
A meal, dress-makers, milliners,
Tired hands in factories.
In Lancashire were organized,
Employers forced to recognize them:
This was the cause of Eva Gore-Booth,
Who spoke on platform, at polling-booth
In the campaign for Women's Suffrage,
That put our double-beds in a rage,
Disturbed the candle-lighted tonsure.
Here Mrs. Sheehy-Skeffington
And other marched. On a May day
In the Phoenix Park, I watched, amazed,
A lovely woman speak in public
While crowding fellows from office, public
House, jeered. I heard that sweet voice ring
And saw the gleam of wedding ring
As she denounced political craft,
Tall, proud as Mary Wollenstonecraft.
Still discontented, our country prays
To private enterprise. Few praise
Now Dr. Kathleen Lynn, who founded
A hospital for sick babies, foundlings,
Saved them with lay hands. How could we
Look down on infants, prattling, cooing,
When wealth had emptied so many cradles?
Better than ours, her simple Credo.
Women, who cast off all we want,
Are now despised, their names unwanted,
For patriots in party statement
And act make worse our Ill-fare State.
The soul is profit. Money claims us.
Heroes are valuable clay.