Plunkett: The Circle and the Sword

Pdf Plunkett, Joseph Mary. The Circle and The Sword. Dublin: Maunsel & Company, 1911
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Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887 - 1916) was born in Dublin and was a member of a distinguished Co. Meath family. His parents were Count and Countess Plunkett, and St. Oliver Plunkett, the 17th century martyr for the Catholic faith, was his ancestor.

Plunkett was a gifted poet and journalist, and together with Thomas MacDonagh, he co-edited The Irish Review newspaper. He was also a founder of The Irish Theatre in 1914, with Edward Martyn and Thomas MacDonagh. A strong Irish nationalist, he was a leader in the IRB preparations for the 1916 Rising, despite his failing health due to TB. He was imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol following the Rising, and was permitted to marry his fiancé, Grace Gifford, on the eve of his execution. He was shot by firing squad on 4th May, at the age of twenty-eight.

The Circle and The Sword is Plunkett’s first book of published poetry, and is dedicated to his lifelong friend Thomas MacDonagh. In fact, it was Thomas MacDonagh who selected the poems to be included. A second volume of his poetry, The Poems of Joseph Mary Plunkett, was published posthumously by his sister, Geraldine Plunkett, in 1919.

The Circle and The Sword comprises of 34 of Plunkett’s poems, including the well known poems “I see His Blood upon the Rose”, and “The Stars sang in God’s Garden”. The title of the book refers to the twelfth poem of the collection, “The Sword”. As with other poets involved in the revolution, such as MacDonagh and Pearse, much of his poetry’s themes are based on suffering and despair. He was also very much influenced by St. John of the Cross and mystical contemplation.

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