Vision and Sacrifice

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On Wednesday night, 26 March 2014, TG4 are broadcasting a programme partly filmed in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. The programme is called Joseph Campbell Aisling agus ĺobairt (Joseph Campbell Vision and Sacrifice).

Joseph Campbell (1879-1944) was a poet and an enthusiast both for nationalist politics and the Irish language. His poetry was very well-respected in the early years of the 20th century. His literary output was heavily influence by his engagement with Gaelic culture, nature and Christianity. His poem ‘The old woman’ appeared in many anthologies; he also wrote the words to the traditional Irish air ‘My Lagan love’.

Campbell was arrested during the Civil War and was imprisoned for a year during which time he kept a prison diary, which was edited by Eiléan ní Chuillenáin and published in 2001 with the title ‘As I was among the captives’. The original manuscripts of this, and most of Campbell’s correspondence and poetry, are part of the Library’s collections in M&ARL. The poet comes across as quite difficult to get on with and quite sure both of his own importance and the fact that he was not sufficiently appreciated.

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He went to America for a number of years in the 1930s and, upon returning, lived something of a lonely life in isolation in Co Wicklow. His later poems, being less burdened with dated ideology, are a legacy that will last.

Reproduced here is the first note Campbell was able to send to his wife Nancy, after his arrest, and a little snapshot of him during his time in America.

Jane Maxwell