Patrick Kavanagh

Soundings Index

Stoney Grey Soil

 O stony grew 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!
 Your mandril strained, 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 unpoisioned 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.

 Mullahinsha, Drummeril, Black Shanco--
 Wherever I turn I see
 In the stony grey soil of Monaghan
 Dead loves that were born for me.


 We have tested and tasted too much, lover--
 Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
 But here in the Advent-darkened room
 Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
 Of penance will charm back the luxury
 Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
 the knowledge we stole but could not use.

 And the newness that was in every stale thing
 When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
 Winder in a black slanting Ulster hill
 Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
 Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
 You and me to they yard gate to watch the whins
 And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

 O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
 For the difference that sets an old phrase burning--
 We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
 Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
 And we'll hear it among decent men too
 Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
 Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
 Won't we be rich, my love and I, and please
 God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
 The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
 Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
 We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
 Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour--
 And Christ comes with a  January flower.

Memory Of My Father

 Ever old man I see
 Reminds me of my father
 When he had fallen in love with death
 One time when sheaves were gathered.

 That man I saw in Gardner Street
 Stumble on the kerb was one,
 He stared at me half-eyed,
 I might have been his son.

 And I remember the musician
 Faltering over his fiddle
 In Bayswater, London
 He too set me the riddle.

 Every old man I see
 In october-coloured weather
 Seems to say to me :
 "I was once your father."

Iniskeen Road : July Evening

 The bicycles go by in twos and threes--
 There's a dance in Billy Brennan's barn to-night,
 And there's the half-talk code of mysteries
 And the wink-and-elbow language of delight.
 Half-past eight and there is not a spot
 Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown
 That might turn out a man or woman, not
 A footfall tapping secrecies of stone.

 I have what every poet hates in spite
 Of all the solemn talk of contemplation
 Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight
 Of being king and government and nation.
 A road, a mile of kingdom, I am king
 Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.

Canal Bank Walk

 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.
 he 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, enrapture 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.

Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin

 "Erected to the Memory of Mrs. Dermot O'Brien"

 O commemorate me where there is water,
 Canal water preferably, so stilly
 Greeny at the heart of summer, Brother
 Commemorate me thus beautifully.
 Where by a lock Niagariously roars
 The falls for those who sit in the tremendous silence
 Of mid-July. No one will speak in prose
 Who finds his way to these Parnassian islands
 A swan goes by head low with many apologies.
 Fantastic light looks through the eyes of bridges
 And look! a barge comes bringing from Athy
 And other far-flung towns mythologies.
 O commemorate me with no hero-courageous
 Tomb--just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.

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