Augustine Joseph Clarke was born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 9, 1896. His parents, Augustine Clarke and Ellen Patten Browne Clarke, produced twelve children; three daughters and one son, Austin, survived. The young Clarke was educated at Belvedere College (1903-1912) and then at University College of the National University of Ireland on a three-year scholarship of forty pounds a year. At University College, Clarke studied with such prominent figures in Irish literary life as Douglas Hyde and Thomas MacDonagh, and he read Yeats, George Russell (Æ), George Moore, and other English and Anglo-Irish writers. Clarke began to immerse himself in Irish culture and the Celtic Twilight and to explore the literary movements of the time.
Clarke received his bachelor of arts degree with first class honors in English language and literature in 1916, the year of the Easter Rising, and the next year, his master of arts degree, again with first class honors in English. He was then appointed assistant lecturer in English at University College, to replace his teacher, MacDonagh, who had been executed by the British after the Easter Rising.
Clarke published his first significant poem, The Vengeance of Fionn, an epic in the Irish mythic tradition, in 1917. The poem was much praised and Clarke was hailed as a “new Yeats.” For the next several years, Clarke devoted himself to the study of Gaelic prosody and Irish myth and folklore. In 1920, Clarke married for the first time, but the marriage was to last only ten days. He married again in 1930. In 1921, he was appointed assistant examiner in matriculation, National University of Ireland, a post he held until 1970.
By the mid-1920’s, Clarke had shifted his attention away from early Irish themes and had turned instead to the...
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