Contemporary Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll’s poetry has often been linked with Philip Larkin’s work in its general outlines and themes. As George Szirtes points out, O’Driscoll’s literary territory “is a place that at first sight appears to be bordering on Larkin country. . . Like Larkin he generally addresses himself to ordinary lives, to their ambit of hopes and disappointments.” O’Driscoll’s poetry seeks, as Szirtes has it, “not . . . to tell people how they should feel but to try to understand, to share and to give shape to [peoples’] feeling” (Szirtes, “Business of Being”).
In late-medieval Europe growing interests in ‘man-centred’ philosophies, known subsequently as humanism, had profound effects upon art and literature. In the visual arts, which were dominated by Christian themes, there was an increasing tendency to depict biblical stories and those from the lives of saints realistically. In contrast to the schematic symbolism of medieval times, the figures and objects pictured in the Renaissance closely resembled those from everyday life. This new naturalism was particularly evident in the expanding urban centres of Florentine Tuscany.
To make use of the term ‘fall of man’ is perhaps ironic; it is associated with a Miltonic, Judeo-Christian ‘fall’, which has a semantic implication of the sort against which Nietzsche battles when he begs for the ‘death of God’ to be absorbed into society’s reasoning. The sacred theological ‘fall’ of man from the faultless prelapsarian Eden to the fallible realism of Earth is far from how Blake, and indeed Nietzsche, understands man’s sacrilegious ‘fall’ to his present state.
All the high positions and symbols, spiritual as well as profane, with which men adorn themselves with such importance and hypocritical falsity are transformed into masks in the presence of the rogue, into costumes for a masquerade, into buffoonery. A reformulation and loosening up of all these high symbols and positions, their radical re-accentuation, takes place in an atmosphere of gay deception (408).
Within the very first few lines of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, a vivid and violent account is given depicting the momentous division of heaven, in which
Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’Omnipotent to arms (Lines 45-49).
“Friends! Outcasts. Leeches. Undesirables,” Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron proclaims in Jez Butterworth’s 2009 play Jerusalem, “a blessing on you, and upon this beggars’ banquet. This day we draw a line in the chalk, and push back hard against the bastard pitiless busybody council, and drive them from this place for ever” (50).