Glossary entry for
Kavanagh, Patrick

There was some interest in Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) in connection with the Paul Durcan interview. Here are some bits and pieces from Kavanagh's The Complete Poems:

On Raglan Road

(Air: The Dawning of The Day)

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.

From Peter Kavanagh's preface to the collection:
Dear Patrick,
It is now more than four years since I last wrote to you and I find that the longer I delay the less I have to say. A year or two ago I might have discussed your funeral, trying to decide which group was the most offensive, those who came or those who stayed away. There were a few genuine friends in attendance, of course. Information on your departure came to me from the Gardai in Carrickmacross, which will give you some idea of the prevailing mood. Your philosophy of "not-caring" must have saved the day for you. Just the same, I was very disappointed that I hadn't had the opportunity of seeing you off, as you saw me off on many's the occasion.

Much talk of you since you have gone - at least half of it bitter and the remainder begrudging. Still, I suppose one should not complain. Perhaps they mean well. It is hard to say.

All of your writing has been out of print for some time; nothing at all of yours in the Dublin bookstores. Recently The Green Fool was re-issued but since you stated many times that this book was part of your juvenalia it is hard to know what is the motive behind the present edition.

Fortunately I continue to have my health, and so I have been whacking away on my own, publishing your papers. I began, as arranged, with our correspondence, Lapped Furrows. Then last year, November Haggard, a selection from your uncollected prose and verse arranged by me in such a way that it was in essence an essay on your point of view.

Now Complete Poems, the biggest job of all! Not a penny contributed by anyone but myself to these enterprises - and this in a world of Cultural Committees, Art Councils, fellowships and the rest. When in 1952 you asked if I would help you start a newspaper I threw everything I owned into Kavanagh's Weekly, knowing I would never see it again. That is what I have been doing here but on an even larger scale - and as before, with no regrets. This is the third time, with the stakes rising with each occasion. There have been no offers of support. Even a release requested for this edition was not forthcoming.

You must not imagine that I have suddenly begun to suffer from delusions or from self-pity. If anything, the reverse is more likely to be true. I am merely stating the position so that you may know the way things stand - not much different, I'd say, from when you were around.

And so, until we meet again in a few years,

As ever, Peter

Two of Kavanagh's most VM-esque poems:

Literary Adventures

I am here in a garage in Monaghan.
It is June and the weather is warm,
Just a little bit cloudy. There's the sun again
Lifting to importance my sixteen acre farm.
There are three swallows' nests in the rafters above me
And the first clutches are already flying.

Spread this news, tell all if you love me,
You who knew that when I was sick I was never dying
(Nae gane, nae gane, nae fra us torn
But taking a rest like John Jordan).
Other exclusive
News stories that cannot be ignored:
I climbed Woods' Hill and the elusive
Underworld of the grasses could be heard,
John Lennon shouted across the valley,
Then I saw a new June moon, quite as stunnning
As when young we blessed the sight as something holy...
Sensational adventure that is only beginning.

For I am taking this evening walk through places
High up among the Six Great Wonders,
The power privileges, the unborn amazes
The unplundered
Where man with no meaning blooms
Large in the eyes of his females:
He doesn't project, nor even assumes
The loss of one necessary believer.
It's as simple as that, it's a matter
Of walking with the little gods, the ignored
Who are so seldom asked to write the letter
Containing the word
O only free gift! no need for Art any more
When Authority whispers like Tyranny at the end of a bar.

Having To Live in the Country

Back once again in wild, wet Monaghan
Exiled from thought and feeling,
A mean brutality reigns:
It is really a horrible position to be in
And I equate myself with Dante
And all who have lived outside civilization.
It isn't a question of place but of people;
Wordsworth and Coleridge lived apart from the common man,
Their friends called on them regularly.
Swift is in a somewhat different category
He was a genuine exile and his heavy heart
Weighed him down in Dublin.
Yet even he had compensations for in the Deanery
He received many interesting friends
And it was the eighteenth century.

I suppose that having to live
Among men whose rages
Are for small wet hills full of stones
When one man buys a patch and pays a high price for it
That is not the end of his paying.
"Go home and have another bastard" shout the children,
Cousin of the underbidder, to the young wife of the purchaser.
The first child was born after six months of marriage,
Desperate people, desperate animals.
What must happen the poor priest
Somewhat educated who has to believe that these people have souls
As bright as a poet's - though I don't, mind, speak for myself.

Contributed by Bent Sorensen

More information available at:

Van references in:

Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website

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