The Chase of a Shadow is a narrative poem begun by my great-grandfather, Irish-American Denis M. Cronin in 1888, his goal to publish having been 1898. The nearly 200 page narrative poem tells the story of Fergus, a young Irish aristocrat from The Sheep’s Head Peninsula (West Cork, Ireland) who is separated from his family, his country and his true love by Ireland’s 1798 Rebellion.
But hidden between the lines of the poem are clues about author Denis M. Cronin’s own life too. Like Fergus, Denis Cronin left a true love behind when he emigrated from the same place as Fergus and like Fergus too, Denis left when faced with trouble after he protested the English rule. What’s more, in the lines of the poem Fergus makes several mentions of and allusions to the phenomenon of voice hearing (incorrectly termed audio hallucinations by the psychiatric professionals who discount any possibility of a real source of the voices the hearers experience) See below for more info regarding this facet of the poem and for a list of the lines describing voice hearing please navigate to the page title “References to Voice Hearing.”
I must thank Southampton, NY artist Jeff Muhs–of jeffmuhsstudio.com–for the above illustration. It is a beautiful rendering of a classic Irish hearthmodelled after a photo of the one in the house Denis Cronin grew up in, a house still standing and situated beside descendants of Denis Cronin’s cousin. The illustration appeared on the first edition of The Chase of a Shadow in 1998.
My thanks also go to Brendan Kennelly, a renowned Irish poet, author, media personality and for many years a Professor of Literature at Trinity College in Dublin, who took the time to meet with me in 1998 and to then read my great-grandfather Denis Cronin’s narrative poem. Brendan Kennelly had the following praise, which I now quote, to offer in response:
“In The Chase of a Shadow Denis M. Cronin shows that he is a gifted storyteller in verse. He has a strong dramatic sense, he is able to move the narrative along with vigour and skill, and his intrinsic musicality is an unfailing pleasure. This is clear, candid writing from another age, but its charm and energy will appeal to many contemporary readers.”
The narrative poem The Chase of a Shadow can be read by choosing the “Read The Narrative Poem” tab in the above or below site menu. Included in that section is a Foreword by Bantry historian Frank O’Mahony and then Denis Cronin’s own final preface (1919) followed by the four cantos of the poem.
Denis Cronin final preface, written circa 1919, mentions the history behind the poem’s story and also Cronin’s own frustration at failing to have The Chase of a Shadow published on time in 1898 or ever.
For those interested in psychiatry and in particular the phenomenon of voice hearing, you will find in The Chase of a Shadow hints that the poem’s struggling hero was “a voice hearer” (a.k.a. clairaudient). Was the author, Denis Cronin, trying to hide clues that he was a voice hearer too? I believe so, being one myself. Was my great-grandfather, like me, trying to explain what voice hearing really is–real spiritual contact rather than mere hallucination? Read the epic poem for yourself and decide. And read the section of this website titled References to Voice Hearing and Mental Illness to see those many lines in The Chase of a Shadow which hint at, and in some cases outright describe those phenomenon, the two not always coming together, by the way, many voice hearers never experiencing any mental illness or symptoms termed instead clairaudient, psychic or “receiving interior locutions” in the case of those hearing only good spiritual voices.
Was my great-grandfather, Denis M. Cronin, who was legally documented as suffering from bipolar disorder, like me too, a voice hearer who transferred his own experience with, and views about, mental illness and voice hearing to Fergus, the main character in his narrative poem, The Chase of a Shadow. Or was Denis Cronin simply writing fiction. Read the section on this website titled References to Voice Hearing and Mental Illness to help you decide. But first…
The final section is about The Sheep’s Head peninsula and Kilcrohane (County Cork) in particular, Denis Cronin’s birthplace and also the setting for much of the poem.
On behalf of Denis Cronin’s descendants, I thank you for reading our great-grandfather’s work. Now my great- grandfather’s dream of success as a writer will be perhaps satisfied, even if posthumously so.