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Patrick Kavanagh

(1904 - 1967 / County Monaghan)

Patrick Kavanagh
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Kavanagh was born on the 21st of October 1904, in the village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan, Ireland. His father was a shoemaker and had a small farm of land. At the age of thirteen Kavanagh became an apprentice shoemaker. He gave it up 15 months later, admitting that he didn't make one wearable pair of boots. For the next 20 years, Kavanagh would work on the family farm before moving to Dublin in 1939.

Kavanagh's writing resulted in the publication of some poems in a local newspaper in the early 1930's. In 1939, his brother Peter, who was a Dublin based teacher, urged him to move to the city to establish himself as a writer. The Dublin Literary Society saw Kavanagh as a country ... more »

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Quotations

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  • It is impossible to read the daily press without being diverted from reality. You are full of enthusiasm for the eternal verities—life is worth living, and then out of sinful curiosity you open a...
    Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), Irish poet, author. "Signposts," Collected Prose (1967).
  • Actors are loved because they are unoriginal. Actors stick to their script. The unoriginal man is loved by the mediocrity because this kind of "artistic" expression is something to which the merest fi...
    Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), Irish poet, author. "Signposts," Collected Prose (1967).
  • ''Malice is only another name for mediocrity.''
    Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), Irish poet, author. "Signposts," Collected Prose (1967).
  • ''A sweeping statement is the only statement worth listening to. The critic without faith gives balanced opinions, usually about second-rate writers.''
    Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), Irish poet, author. "Signposts," Collected Prose (1967).
  • ''What appears in newspapers is often new but seldom true.''
    Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), Irish poet, author. "Signposts," Collected Pruse (1967).
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Comments about Patrick Kavanagh

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  • Rookie Eugene Callan (3/22/2014 8:13:00 AM)

    A Childhood Christmas
    One side of the potato-pits was white with frost—
    How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
    And when we put our ears to the paling-post
    The music that came out was magical.
    The light between the ricks of hay and straw
    Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
    With its December-glinting fruit we saw —
    O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me

    To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
    And death the germ within it! Now and then
    I can remember something of the gay
    Garden that was childhood’s. Again

    The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
    A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
    Or any common sight the transfigured face
    Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

    My father played the melodeon
    Outside at our gate;
    There were stars in the morning east
    And they danced to his music.

    Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
    To Lennons and Callans.
    As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
    I knew some strange thing had happened.

    Outside the cow-house my mother
    Made the music of milking;
    The light of her stable-lamp was a star
    And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

    A water-hen screeched in the bog,
    Mass-going feet
    Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
    Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

    My child poet picked out the letters
    On the grey stone,
    In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
    The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

    Cassiopeia was over
    Cassidy’s hanging hill,
    I looked and three whin bushes rode across
    The horizon — The Three Wise Kings.

    An old man passing said:
    “Can’t he make it talk” —
    The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
    And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

    I nicked six nicks on the door’post
    With my penknife’s big blade—
    There was a little one for cutting tobacco,
    And I was six Christmases of age.

    My father played the melodeon,
    My mother milked the cows,
    And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
    On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.


    Note: 'whin' = ‘gorse’ or ‘furze’.


    Patrick Kavanagh
    (1904 – 1967)


    The author of this most quoted of Christmas poems from Ireland was born in County Monaghan (one of the three counties of Ulster now in the Irish Republic) in 1904 and lived there as a farmer, a cobbler and a poet until he moved to Dublin in 1939. He died in 1967.

    His best-known books are The Ploughman (1936) , The Green Fool (1938) , The Great Hunger (1942) and a novel, Tarry Flynn (1948) .

    There is a splendidly lifelike statue of him seated on a bench on the bank of the Grand Canal in Dublin of which at least one visitor has unwittingly begged its pardon!

    It is said that one day he and his fellow-writer, Brendan Behan, went out for a drink in Dublin. Eventually they were forced to buy from an ‘off-licence’ and go off to drink in a room somewhere because one or the other of the rollicking pair had been banned from every pub they tried!

  • Rookie Ralph Wigg (2/20/2012 4:38:00 PM)

    A beautiful poem set to a beautiful melody. I've listened to dozens of versions and while those listed here by others are fine, the wonderful, haunting track by Joan Osborne with the Chieftains is the one that gets me every time.

  • Rookie Cam Lyttle (4/16/2010 4:16:00 PM)

    On Raglan Road was actually set to music by Kavanagh himself and the lead singer of The Dubliners, Luke Kelly. It is set to the music of the traditional Irish song 'Fainne Geal an Lae' (The Dawning of the Day) . This original version is by far the best of the numerous versions now on offer, truly capturing the feel of the poem (So much so it is used as a learning aid in Leaving Certificate English) , and i would wholly recommend anyone to give it a listen.

  • Rookie Michael Walsh (4/20/2008 9:41:00 PM)

    Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt does an incredible job with Kavanagh's 'On Raglan Road' which she has set to music in her new album 'Nights from the Alhambra'. I mean this dame sings like a thrush! If one buys only one music CD a year, this would be it.

  • Rookie Alice Sinnott (10/9/2003 7:00:00 AM)

    I would like a copy of the poem A View of God and the Devil by Patrick Kavanagh. Your help would be much appreciated.

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