Classics  
Irish    1904 - 1967   
Kavanagh was born on the 21st of October 1904, in the village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan. His father was a shoemaker and had a small farm of land. Kavanagh received only primary school education and at the age of thirteen, he became an apprentice shoemaker. He gave it up 15 ... Read more
Kavanagh was born on the 21st of October 1904, in the village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan. His father was a shoemaker and had a small farm of land. Kavanagh received only primary school education and at the age of thirteen, he became an apprentice shoemaker. He gave it up 15 ... Read more

O stony grey soil of Monaghan

The laugh from my love you thieved;

You took the gay child of my passion

And gave me your clod-conceived.



You clogged the feet of my boyhood

And I believed that my stumble

Had the poise and stride of Apollo

And his voice my thick tongued mumble.



You told me the plough was immortal!

O green-life conquering plough!

The mandril stained, your coulter blunted

In the smooth lea-field of my brow.



You sang on steaming dunghills

A song of cowards' brood,

You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch,

You fed me on swinish food



You flung a ditch on my vision

Of beauty, love and truth.

O stony grey soil of Monaghan

You burgled my bank of youth!



Lost the long hours of pleasure

All the women that love young men.

O can I stilll stroke the monster's back

Or write with unpoisoned pen.



His name in these lonely verses

Or mention the dark fields where

The first gay flight of my lyric

Got caught in a peasant's prayer.



Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco-

Wherever I turn I see

In the stony grey soil of Monaghan

Dead loves that were born for me.

No, no, no, I know I was not important as I moved

Through the colourful country, I was but a single

Item in the picture, the name, not the beloved.

O tedious man with whom no gods commingle.

Beauty, who has described beauty?  Once upon a time

I had a myth that was a lie but it served:

Trees walking across the crest of hills and my rhyme

Cavorting on mile-high stilts and the unnerved

Crowds looking up with terror in their rational faces.

O dance with Kitty Stobling I outrageously

Cried out-of-sense to them, while their timorous paces

Stumbled behind Jove's page boy paging me.

I had a very pleasant journey, thank you sincerely

For giving me my madness back, or nearly.

-Patrick Kavanagh

Copyright © Estate of Katherine Kavanagh

They laughed at one I loved-

The triangular hill that hung

Under the Big Forth. They said

That I was bounded by the whitethorn hedges

Of the little farm and did not know the world.

But I knew that love's doorway to life

Is the same doorway everywhere.

Ashamed of what I loved

I flung her from me and called her a ditch

Although she was smiling at me with violets.



But now I am back in her briary arms

The dew of an Indian Summer lies

On bleached potato-stalks

What age am I?



I do not know what age I am,

I am no mortal age;

I know nothing of women, Nothing of cities,

I cannot die Unless I walk outside these whitethorn hedges.

Shancoduff My black hills have never seen the sun rising,

Eternally they look North towards Armagh.

Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been

Incurious as my black hills that are happy

When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel.



My hills hoard the bright shillings of March

While the sun searches in every pocket.

They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn

With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves

In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage.



The sleety winds fondle the the rushy beards of Shancoduff

While the cattle - drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush

Look up and say: "Who owns them hungry hills

That the water - hen and snip must have forsaken?

A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor."

I hear and is my heart not badly shaken?

On an apple-ripe September morning
Through the mist-chill fields I went
With a pitch-fork on my shoulder
Less for use than for devilment.

The threshing mill was set-up, I knew,
In Cassidy's haggard last night,
And we owed them a day at the threshing
Since last year. O it was delight

To be paying bills of laughter
And chaffy gossip in kind
With work thrown in to ballast
The fantasy-soaring mind.

As I crossed the wooden bridge I wondered
As I looked into the drain
If ever a summer morning should find me
Shovelling up eels again.

And I thought of the wasps' nest in the bank
And how I got chased one day
Leaving the drag and the scraw-knife behind,
How I covered my face with hay.

The wet leaves of the cocksfoot
Polished my boots as I
Went round by the glistening bog-holes
Lost in unthinking joy.

I'll be carrying bags to-day, I mused,
The best job at the mill
With plenty of time to talk of our loves
As we wait for the bags to fill.

Maybe Mary might call round...
And then I came to the haggard gate,
And I knew as I entered that I had come
Through fields that were part of no earthly estate.

I have lived in important places, times

When great events were decided, who owned

That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land

Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul"

And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen

Step the plot defying blue cast-steel --

"Here is the march along these iron stones".

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which

Was more important? I inclined

To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin

Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.

He said: I made the Iliad from such

A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal

Pouring redemption for me, that I do

The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,

Grow with nature again as before I grew.

The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third

Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,

And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word

Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.

O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web

Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,

Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib

To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech

For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven

From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday--
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle--'
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life--
And I see us meeting at the end of a town on a fair day by accident,
after the bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us -- eternally.

 
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