May 24, 2013 | 01:25 AM (BD Time)
24 May, 2013 Friday
Irish Poet John Millington Synge
Mizanur Rahman Jewel :
Edmund John Millington Synge (16 April 1871 - 24 March 1909) was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre. He is best known for his play The Playboy of the Western World, which caused riots during its opening run at the Abbey Theatre.
Synge suffered from Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer at the time untreatable. He died just weeks short of his 38th birthday and was at the time trying to complete his last play, The Last Black Supper.
Synge was born in Newtown Villas, Rathfarnham, County Dublin. He was the youngest son in a family of eight children. His parents were part of the Protestant middle and upper class his family on his father's side were landed gentry from Glanmore Castle, County Wicklow and his maternal grandfather, Robert Traill, had been a rector Church of Ireland in Schull, County Cork and a member of the Schull Relief Committee during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849). Rathfarnham was then a rural part of the county, and during his childhood he was passionately interested in ornithology. His earliest poems are somewhat Wordsworthian in tone: his first 'literary composition' was a nature diary he made in collaboration with Florence Ross when they were both children.
His grandfather, John Hatch Synge, was an admirer of the educationalist Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and founded an experimental school on the family estate. His father, also named John Hatch Synge, was a barrister but contracted smallpox and died in 1872 at the age of 49. Synge's mother, who had a private income from lands in County Galway, moved the family to the house next door to her mother in Rathgar, Dublin. Synge, although often ill, had a happy childhood here, and developed an interest in ornithology along the banks of the River Dodder in the grounds of the nearby Rathfarnham Castle, and during family holidays at the seaside resort of Greystones, Wicklow, and the family estate at Glanmore.
Synge was educated privately at schools in Dublin and Bray, and later studied piano, flute, violin, music theory and counterpoint at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He traveled to Europe to study music, but changed his mind and decided to focus on literature. He proved to be a talented student and won a scholarship in counterpoint in 1891. The family moved to the suburb of Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in 1888, and Synge entered Trinity College, Dublin the following year, where he graduated with a BA in 1892. While at college, he studied Irish and Hebrew, as well as continuing his music studies and playing with the Academy orchestra in the Antient Concert Rooms.
He joined the Dublin Naturalists' Field Club and read Charles Darwin. Synge wrote:
When I was about fourteen I obtained a book of Darwin's .... My studies showed me the force of what I read, [and] the more I put it from me the more it rushed back with new instances and power ... Soon afterwards I turned my attention to works of Christian evidence, reading them at first with pleasure, soon with doubt, and at last in some cases with derision."
He then continued, "Soon after I had relinquished the kingdom of God I began to take up a real interest in the kingdom of Ireland. My politics went round ... to a temperate Nationalism." He later developed an interest in Irish antiquities and the Aran Islands, and became a member of the Irish League for a year. He later quit the Irish League, because, as he told Maud Gonne, "my theory of regeneration for Ireland differs from yours ... I wish to work on my own for the cause of Ireland, and I shall never be able to do so if I get mixed up with a revolutionary and semi-military movement." In 1893, he published his first known work, a Wordsworth-influenced poem, in Kottabos: A College Miscellany. His reading of Darwin coincided with a crisis of faith and Synge abandoned the Protestant religion of his upbringing around this time.
After graduating, Synge decided that he wanted to be a professional musician and went to Germany to study music. He stayed at Coblenz during 1893, and moved to Würzburg in the January of the following year. Partly because he was shy about performing in public, and partly because of self-doubt on his ability, Synge decided to abandon music and pursue his literary interests. He returned to Ireland in June 1894, and moved to Paris the following January to study literature and languages at the Sorbonne.
During summer holidays with his family in Dublin, he met and fell in love with Cherrie Matheson, a friend of his cousin and a member of the Plymouth Brethren. He proposed to her in 1895 and again the next year, but she turned him down on both occasions because of their differing religious viewpoints. This rejection affected Synge greatly and reinforced his determination to spend as much time as possible outside Ireland.
In 1896 he visited Italy to study the language for a time before returning to Paris. Later that year he met W. B. Yeats, who encouraged Synge to live for a while in the Aran Islands and then return to Dublin and devote himself to creative work. That year he joined with Yeats, Augusta, Lady Gregory, and George William Russell to form the Irish National Theatre Society, which later would establish the Abbey Theatre. He also wrote an amount of literary criticism for Gonne's Irlande Libre and other journals as well as unpublished poems and prose in a decadent, fin de siècle style. These writings were eventually gathered together in the 1960s for his Collected Works. He also attended lectures at the Sorbonne by the noted Celtic scholar Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville.
Synge suffered his first attack of Hodgkin's disease in 1897 and also had an enlarged gland removed from his neck. The following year, he spent the summer on the Aran Islands. He s
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