This chorus ultimately gives way to “St. John of Gods” as an alternative mantra. St. John of God is a psychiatric clinic in a southern suburb of Dublin, run since 1882 by the religious order of that name. Though it offers a range of services, it is best known for alcoholism treatment. The legend of the original St. John of God, a 16th-century Portuguese monk, holds that following a dramatic conversion experience, he was locked up in an asylum for the insane and mistreated. This inspired him to spend the rest of his life caring for street people who were ignored as being beyond help and abused for being troublesome. “St. John” is evoked here as a kind of patron saint of alcoholics: the recurring name could suggest simply a memory of treatment at the hospital, or an appeal by a man who has written off the rest of the human race as hostile, but retains a sense that there is an ideal of humanity. It could be the speaker’s voice identifying the despised man with the venerated saint, or invoking the institutional consequence to these scenes, in which the man is arrested at a barfight, beaten up by the police, and paraded before a judge to repeat his only words.
April 19, 2013 by