In a many-layered work echoing with literary and historical allusions the 'Prelude' sounds the motifs of myths of origin, religious beliefs and oral narrative, while the main movement, 'Broken Lights, Broken Lances', explores these issues in more detail. Failure, the recurrent trope, is sounded in images of tribal collapse, in the mixture of hope and elegy attending the relationship between teacher and student and in the failure of the imagination to absorb the deposits of myth and story. It is in keeping with this failure that the friendship ends.
In the stillness that ensues the poet-teacher searches for understanding. An answer may be found in the work itself. A poem about the conjunction of dissimilar forces is a metaphor for the task of the imagination: to make sense of disorder, to bring harmony to the "broken lights" of tradition. Well-crafted, graceful lyrics in Part Two deal with persistence and failure, the cruelties and fears of childhood, the joys and disappointments of love, the strength of memory.
Maurice Harmon, Emeritus Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature at University College Dublin, is a distinguished critic, biographer, editor, literary historian, and poet. He edited the ground-breaking anthology Irish Poetry After Yeats. His Selected Essays (2006) contains articles on William Carleton, Mary Lavin, John Montague, and contemporary Irish poetry. A study of Thomas Kinsella as poet and translator, Thomas Kinsella: Designing for the Exact Needs, was published in March 2008. His poetry collections include The Last Regatta (2000), The Doll with Two Backs and Other Poems (2004) and The Mischievous Boy and Other Poems (2008).