Monday, October 1, 2012

Patrick Kavanagh

Patrick Kavanagh (1904—1967) is one of the most popular poets among the Irish people. He left school to follow his father in his profession as a cobbler, but found he had no aptitude for it. He worked the family farm, until 1931 when he moved to Dublin to seek success as a poet and journalist. He says, “I dabbled in verse and it became my life.” Seamus Heaney said in a review of Kavanagh’s Collected Poems for The Guardian that “Kavanagh is a truly representative modern figure in that his subversiveness was turned upon himself: dissatisfaction, both spiritual and artistic, is what inspired his growth.”

In his introduction to No Earthly Estate, a collection of Kavanagh's poems of the Spirit, parish priest Tom Stack points out that more than half of all of his poetry includes references to Christian faith. He attributes to Patrick Kavanagh a “sacramental perspective” which “'sees' the divine in the human, the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the historical. Properly understood this will never be mistaken for some kind of idolatry, pantheism or magic. True sacramentality affords the Christian believer something of a glimpse of God.”


Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, I said, to find
One small page of Truth's manuscript made clear.
I looked at Christ transfigured without fear—
The light was very beautiful and kind,
And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed
I read it through the lenses of a tear.
And then my sight grew dim, I could not see
The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,
And there was but the shadow of a tree
Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.

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.
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.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Patrick Kavanagh: second post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: