The status of Anthony Cronin as not just an artist, but a champion of the arts was reflected in the turnout at his funeral service in Dublin.
President Michael D Higgins was among the congregation who attended the service for the late poet, novelist and critic at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook. He died aged 88 after a short illness.
Cronin was an artistic adviser to two taoisigh – Charles Haughey and Dr Garret FitzGerald – as well the founder of Aosdána, which sought to support people working in the Irish arts sector, and an instigator of the Bloomsday celebrations of the work of James Joyce every year.
The multifaceted nature of his life and work was reflected in the prayers of the faithful. The author, Dermot Bolger, spoke of Cronin's love of poetry, broadcaster Eamon Dunphy spoke of his "enduring love for horse racing", painter Michael Kane told of his interest in the flight of birds and the "conversation of rooks in a wood".
Cronin was, according to his wife Anne Haverty, the "complete, consummate man. In him all the possibilities of our human nature lived in harmony. Genius and pleasure in the every day, glee and gravity, irony and ardour."
Shortly before he died, he had turned to Ms Haverty and said: “Have I done enough to justify?” He never finished the sentence, but she believed that he meant to ask if he had justified himself in his work.
“That he had, of course, goes without saying,” she told the congregation.
In his last moments, he said to his wife, “Will we go? Will we leave this place?”
“Where will we go?” she asked.
“To the land of certainty, truth and love,” he answered decisively.
Chief celebrant Monsignor Tom Stack revealed that Cronin had confided to him before he died about a "renewal of a belief in God". He had died, Monsignor Stack said, as an "exceptionally gifted, Christian gentleman".
His fellow Enniscorthy native and writer Colm Tóibín described Cronin as a man who had thought deeply about Ireland and its history and how it might evolve. His poems came from a battle in his own spirit between the "forces of pure reason and the sheer mystery of life", Tóibín suggested.
Tóibín suggested Cronin had given “dignity and stability to the creative life” in Ireland through his work in setting up Aosdána. Cronin was, he concluded “Yeatsian in his integrity and way of tempering the soaring spirit with the wisdom of the body and the intelligence”.
Among those who attended his funeral were the poet, Theo Dorgan, novelist Anne Enright, playwright Frank McGuinness and the producer, Noel Pearson. Seán and Ciarán Haughey, sons of former taoiseach Charles; the former U2 manager, Paul McGuinness; actor Stephen Rea; broadcaster John Bowman; and the horse trainer, Jim Bolger, were also among the congregation.
The service ended with a recording of Cronin reading from his own poem The Need of Words which ended: "Accepted now the measure of the dance, half heard, at last".
It was followed by a rendition of The Croppy Boy, a song synonymous with Enniscorthy, by Donal Lunny and Graham Henderson.
After the funeral service, his wicker coffin was taken away for cremation at the Victorian Chapel in Harold’s Cross.