The Poetic Quality of the Colloquial Speech in J. M.Synge's ‘Riders to the Sea’.

Synge began his literary career as a poet but he proved to be a failure. This is because of his inability to transcribe the language of the Aran Islanders into material structures. Later on in his life, as advised by Yeats, he thoroughly studied this language of the Aran-Islanders and carefully and comprehensively studies in different shades of life that existed there. Synge realized that the colloquial speech untarnished by cultural polish and sophistication had immense poetical potentialities. Synge knew that poetry and dramatic expression may co-exist; poetry and drama may even be simultaneous. Synge recognized the need of instilling poetry into drama and thereby sustains British dramatic art from degenerating into the state track of naturalism and realism. He, therefore, revived the art of poetic drama and in the Shadow of the Glen, Deidre of the Sorrow and Riders to the Sea he achieved his dreams very successfully.

          In Riders to the Sea Synge used a language which has music of its own. He was attempting to shape his poetry out of colloquial speech. Unlike in poetry where the language or speech is morally heightened, Synge in Riders to the Sea deliberately imitate the unalloyed expression of the common speech forms of the Aran Islands. Synge does this by certain easily recognizable methods. First, the use of present participle applies a cadence to the ear. The speech of the common Islanders has a characteristic rhythm which Synge profusely employs in the course of the play. The use of present participle abounds in the fabric in the plays:

“She is lying down, God help her”,

 “the young priest is after bringing them”

"If it’s Michael’s they are," says he, "you can tell herself he’s got a clean burial by the grace of God, and if they’re not his, let no one say a word about them, for she’ll be getting her death," says he, "with crying and lamenting."

“I hear some one passing the big stones.”

This repetition of the ing sounds lends a letting rhythm to the speech pattern of the common folks of the Aran Islands, as used in the Riders to the Sea.

Synge also makes a proficient used of disjoined sentences. It is characteristic of the idioms of the Aran Islanders that they use short, disjunctive sentences that add to the rhythmic pattern of their language for example:

 “There was Sheamus and his father, and his own father again, were lost in a dark night, and not a stick or sign was seen of them when the sun went up.”.

“It is surely. There was a man in here a while agothe man sold us that knifeand he said if you set off walking from the rocks beyond, it would be seven days you’d be in Donegal.”.

The rhythmic quality is also seen in the use of ‘after construction’ in the language. For example:

“It’s a hard thing they’ll be saying below if the body is washed up and there’s no man in it to make the coffin, and I after giving a big price for the finest white boards you’d find in Connemara.”

“The Son of God forgive us, Nora, we’re after forgetting his bit of bread.
…….And it’s destroyed he’ll be going till dark night, and he after eating nothing since the sun went up.”

“In the big world the old people do be leaving things after them for their sons and children, but in this place it is the young men do be leaving things behind for them that do be old.”

“You did not, mother; it wasn’t Michael you seen, for his body is after being found in the far north, and he’s got a clean burial by the grace of God.”

“I’m after seeing him this day, and he riding and galloping.”

“There’s some one after crying out by the seashore.”

“Michael is after being found in the far north, and when he is found there how could he be here in this place?”

“It’s Michael, God spare him, for they’re after sending us a bit of his clothes from the far north.”

“An old woman will be soon tired with anything she will do, and isn’t it nine days herself is after crying and keening, and making great sorrow in the house?”

          Synge also makes free use of connectives, another characteristic feature of Irish-Gaelic dialect. John Price is of the opinion that these “free use of connectives give a sense that it is not normal, prosaic, linear prose that it being used by Synge, but it is a highly charged dialogue packed with emotion and innocence of these rustics who inhabit the Aran Islands”. One example would sufficient to prove the point:

          “Let you go down each day, and see the sheep are not jumping in on the rye, and if the jobber comes you can sell the pig with the black feet if there is a good price going”.

The free use of connectives according to an Indian critic Sisir Kumar Das, gives a suggestion of highly emotive and spontaneous flow of language that is the essential character of poetry.

          Synge has used such language whose music is strengthened by alliteration. Innumerable example occurs in the play – ‘Tides turning’, ‘small sup ‘, ‘Crying and keening’, ‘cock for the kelp’, ‘she will slip by the stone’,‘ short space ’ , ‘cock for the kelp’ etc.

          This alliterative language is of course a language of poetry, a language of emotion and music, and not the language of common discourse. Synge himself has written in his memoir of the Aran Islands:
“In my play I have used that language that I have heard among the country people of island ------ in countries where the imagination and language is rich and living which is the root of all poetry”.

          Indeed, Riders to the Sea gives the impressible of dramatic poetry which is much agog with a force of life. The theme of the great poetry is always the theme of struggle against over-whelming forces. The struggle of the fisher folk against the malevolence of hostile natural forces and their mutability as dramatized in Riders to the Sea gives us the impression that the entire play is a great poetic image. The longevity of the play resembles the compactness of poetry and that accounts for the intensity of emotion render in the play. Riders to the Sea has been described by J. R. Henn as “a coherent and memorable image of some fundamental aspects of life”. Finally, one discerns that great poetry has no room for theorizing or detailed explication. A poet never theorizes, he merely suggests. This quality of suggestiveness is what marks Synge’s poetry as a great poetic work of art. Indeed, in a very short span Synge has syncopated the entire image of life, and this was possible by virtue of suggestive quality of the play.        

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