Daily Archives: December 1, 2017

Patrick Kavanagh, Poetry and Grave Matters.

In August of this year when visiting a school friend from decades ago, Kathleen introduced me to the gravesite of one of Ireland’s better known poets, Patrick Kavanagh, in the very pretty County Monaghan village of Inniskeen, just up the road from her own home.

imageThis disused church houses the Patrick Kavanagh Centre where Kavanagh’s memory is preserved and honoured.

November 30 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of his death. Revered as of one of Ireland’s better known poets the date was marked yesterday with special ceremonies at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre.

Patrick Kavanagh was born in the village of Inniskeen on October 21, 1904. For some decades he worked the land here –  a place that informed some of his best writing.  His novel ‘Tarry Flynn’ could almost be autobiographical as it tells the story of a young fella not unlike himself, constrained and frustrated by his rural existence – hard-working with a lack of romantic affiliations in a clerical repressed Ireland. One of his better known poems also follows these themes.

Stony Grey Soil

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 still 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.


Kavanagh on the Stony Grey Soil of Monaghan in 1963. (Image Wikimedia Commons)


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