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This article is taken from PN Review 228, Volume 42 Number 4, March - April 2016.

Aspermatic Days and Nights (II)

Samuel Beckett and an Anti-Genealogy of Contemporary Irish Poetry
David Wheatley
Within a decade Beckett would be fighting typhoid in post-war Normandy, working for the Red Cross, as recorded in his radio talk ‘Capital of the Ruins’. One poem from this period that inhabits a somewhat orphaned state within the canon is ‘Antipepsis’, unpublished in Beckett’s lifetime and unlike any of the poems in French or English written during this period. Its rollicking octosyllabics place it in the tradition of Swift but also, in more recent times, that of Joyce’s ‘Gas from a Burner’ and ‘The Holy Office’. Nevertheless, it is highly unusual to find Beckett employing ‘a form of terminal consonance no longer permitted’, as Pound sarcastically called rhyme when he returned to it for his satirical poem of 1915, ‘L’Homme Moyen Sensuel’:


And the number was uneven
In the green of holy Stephen
Where before the ass the cart
Was harnessed for a foreign part.
In this should not be seen the sign
Of hasard, no, but of design,
For of the two, by common consent,
The cart was the more intelligent.
Whose exceptionally pia
Mater hatched this grand idea
Is not known. He or she,
Smiling, unmolested, free,
By this one act the mind become
A providential vacuum,
Continues still to run amok.
To eat, drink, piss, shit, fart and fuck,
Assuming that the fucking season
Did not expire with that of reason.
Now through the city spreads apace
The cry: ...


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