Quotations in Brendan Kennelly, 'Patrick Kavanagh’, Ariel (July 1970)

See full-text version in RICORSO Library, ”Critical Classics”, infra.

O pagan poet you
And I are one
In this - we lose our god
At set of sun.

And we are kindred when
The hill wind shakes
Sweet song like blossoms on
The calm green lakes.

We dream while Earth’s sad children
Go slowly by
Pleading for our conversion
With the Most High.
“To A Blackbird”, in Collected Poems (London: MacGibbon & Kee 1964), p.3.

My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot’s wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel.
“Shancoduff”, in Collected Poems, p.30.

Clay is the word and clay is the flesh
Where the potato-gatherers like mechanized scarecrows move
Along the side-fall of the hill - Maguire and his men.
If we watch them an hour is there anything we can prove
Of life as it is broken-backed over the Book
Of Death? Here crows gabble over worms and frogs
And the gulls like old newspapers are blown clear of the
    hedges, luckily.
Is there some light of imagination in these wet clods?
Or why do we stand here shivering?

“The Great Hunger”, Collected Poems, 1964, p.34.

The pull is on the traces, it is March
And a cold black wind is blowing from Dundalk.
The twisting sod rolls over on her back
The virgin screams before the irresistible sock.
No worry on Maguire’s mind this day
Except that he forgot to bring his matches.
'Hop back there Polly, hoy back, woa, wae,’
From every second hill a neighbour watches
With all the sharpened interest of rivalry.

Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap
These men know God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb.

Do., in Collected Poems, 1964, p.38.

Another field whitened in the April air
And the harrows rattled over the seed.
He gathered the loose stones off the ridges carefully
And grumbled to his men to hurry. He looked like a man
     who could give advice
To foolish young fellows. He was forty-seven,
And there was depth in his jaw and his voice was the
voice of a great cattle-dealer,
A man with whom the fair-green gods break even.
'I think I ploughed that lea the proper depth,
She ought to give a crop if any land gives .
Drive slower with the foal-mare, Joe.’
Joe, a young man of imagined wives,
Smiles to himself and answered like a slave:
'You needn’t fear or fret.I’m taking her as easy, as easy as ...
Easy there Fanny, easy, pet.’

They loaded the day-scoured implements on the cart
As the shadows of poplars crookened the furrows.
It was the evening, evening. Patrick was forgetting to be
As he used to be in Aprils long ago.
It was menopause, the misery-pause.

Do., in Collected Poems, 1964, p.47

The cows and the horses breed,
And the potato-seed
Gives a bud and a root and rots
In the good mother’s way with her sons;
The fledged bird is thrown
From the nest - on its own.
But the peasant in his little acres is tied
To a mother’s womb by the wind-toughened navel-cord
Like a goat tethered to the stump of a tree -
He circles around and around wondering why it should be.

No crash, No drama. That was how his life happened.
No mad hooves galloping in the sky,
But the weak, washy way of true tragedy
A sick horse nosing around the meadow for a clean place to die.
Do., in Collected Poems, 1964, p.53.

He stands in the doorway of his house
A ragged sculpture of the wind, October creaks the rotted mattress,
The bedposts fall. No hope. No lust.
The hungry fiend
Screams the apocalypse of day
In every corner of this land.
Do., Collected Poems, 1964, p.55.

'Soul,’ I prayed,
'I have hawked you through the world
Of church and State and meanest trade.
But this evening, halter off,
Never again will it go on.
On the south side of ditches
There is grazing of the sun.
No more haggling with the world . .

As I said these words he grew
Wings upon his back.
Now I may ride him
Every land my imagination knew.
“Pegasus”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.60

We have tested and tasted too much, lover
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder ...
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 {167}
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the day-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour
And Christ comes with a January flower.
“Advent”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.70.

But hope! the poet comes again to build
A new city high above lust and logic,
The trucks of language overflow and magic
At every turn of the living road is spilled.
“A Wreathe for Tom Moore’s Statue”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.34.

In the corner of a Dublin pub
This party opens-blub-a-blub
Paddy Whiskey, Rum and Gin,
Paddy three sheets in the wind;
Paddy of the Celtic Mist,
Paddy Connemara West,
Chestertonian Paddy Frog
Croaking nightly in the bog.
All the Paddies having fun
Since Yeats handed in his gun.
Every man completely blind
To the truth about his mind .
“The Paddiad, or the Devil as a Patron of Irish Letters”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.90

Drink up, drink up, the troughs in Paris and
London are no better than your own,
Joyce learned that bitterly in a foreign land.
Don’t laugh, there is no answer to that one!
Outside this pig-sty life deteriorates,
Civilization dwindles. We are the last preserve
Of Eden in a world of savage states.
“The Defeated ”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.97.

The poet’s task is not to solve the riddle
Of Man and God but buckleap on a door
And grab his screeching female by her middle
To the music of a melodeon (preferably), roar
Against the Western waves of Connemara
Up lads and thrash the beetles.
Do., Collected Poems, 1964, p.98.

... here in this nondescript land
Everything is secondhand
Nothing ardently growing,
Nothing coming, nothing going,
Tepid fevers, nothing hot,
Nothing alive enough to rot;
Nothing clearly defined ...
Every head is challenged. Friend,
This is hell you’ve brought me to.
Where’s the gate that we came through?
“Adventures in the Bohemian Jungle”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.108.

Who killed James Joyce?
I, said the commentator,
I killed James Joyce
For my graduation.

What weapon was used
To slay mighty Ulysses?
The Weapon that was used
Was a Harvard thesis ...
“Who Killed James Joyce?”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.117.

. satire is unfruitful prayer,
Only wild shoots of pity there,
And you must go inland and be
Lost in compassion’s ecstasy,
Where suffering soars in summer air
The millstone has become a star.
“Prelude” in Collected Poems, 1964, p.132.

I protest here and now and forever
On behalf of all my people who believe in Verse
That my intention is not satire but humaneness,
An eagerness to understand more about sad man,
Frightened man, the workers of the world
Without being savaged in the process.
Broadness is my aim, a broad road where the many
Can see life easier - generally.
“Living in the Country: I”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.167.

Child do not go
Into the dark places of soul
For there the grey wolves whine,
The lean grey wolves.
“To A Child”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.9.

Out of weakness more than muscle
Relentlessly men continue to tussle
With the human-eternal puzzle

There were gulls on the road in St Stephen’s Park
And many things worth a remark
I sat on a deck-chair and started to work

On a morning’s walk not quite effectual
A little too unselectual
But what does it count in the great perpetual?
“A Summer Morning Walk”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.182.

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 he honoured with a new dress
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot
    be proven.
“Canal Bank Walk”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.150.

the poet poor,
Or pushed around, or to be hanged retains
His full reality .
“Intimate Parnassus”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.146.

Count them the beautiful unbroken
And then forget them
As things aside from the main purpose
Which is, to be
Passive, observing with a steady eye.

I also found some crucial
Documents of sad evil that may yet
For all their ugliness and vacuous leers
Fuel the fires of comedy.
“Dear Folks”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.151.

the main thing is to continue,
To walk Parnassus right into the sunset
Detached in love where pygmies cannot pin you
To the ground like Gulliver. So good luck and cheers.

Making the statement is enough - there are no answers
To any real question ...

“Nineteen Fifty-Four”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.147

To look on is enough
In the business of love.
“Is”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.154.

This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these things is the love act and its pledge;
For we must record love’s mystery without claptrap,
Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.
“The Hospital”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.153.

. there is always the passing gift of affection
Tossed from the windows of high charity
In the office girl and civil servant section
And these are no despisable commodity.
So be reposed and praise, praise praise
The way it happened and the way it is.
“Question to Life ”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.164.

Surely my God is feminine, for Heaven
Is the generous impulse, is contented
With feeling praise to the good. And all
Of these that I have known have come from women.
While men the poet’s tragic light resented
The spirit that is Woman caressed his soul.
“God in Woman”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.147.

I learned, I learned - when one might he inclined
To think, too late, you cannot recover your losses
I learned something of the nature of God’s mind,
Not the abstract Creator but He who caresses
The daily and nightly earth; He who refuses
To take failure for an answer .
“Miss Universe”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.158.

        ... We must not anticipate
Or awaken for a moment. God cannot catch us
Unless we stay in the unconscious room
Of our hearts. We must be nothing,
Nothing that God may make us something .

        ... Let us lie down again
Deep in anonymous humility and God
May find us worthy material for his hand.
“Having Confessed”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.149.

I saw his name with a hundred others
In a book in the library
It said he had never fully achieved
His potentiality.
O he was slothful
Fol dol the di do,
He was slothful
I tell you.

He knew that posterity has no use
For anything but the soul,
The lines that speak the passionate heart,
The spirit that lives alone.
O he was a lone one,
Fol dol the di do
Yet he lived happily
I tell you.
“If Ever You Go to Dublin Town”, in Collected Poems, 1964, p.144.

To take something as a subject indifferent
To personal affection, I have been considering
Some old saga as an instrument
To play upon without the person suffering
From the tiring years. But I can only
Tell of my problem without solving
Anything. If I could rewrite a famous tale
Or perhaps return to a midnight calving,
This cow sacred on a Hindu scale -
So there it is my friends. What am I to do
With the void growing more awful every hour?
I lacked a classical discipline. I grew
Uncultivated and now the soil turns sour,
Needs to be revived by a power not my own,
Heroes enormous who do astounding deeds
Out of this world. Only thus can I attune
To despair an illness like winter alone in Leeds.
“A Personal Problem”, in Arena (Spring 1965); rev. as “Winter in Leeds”, in The Complete Poems, 1984, p.335.

[ back ]

[ top ]

There is only one muse, the Comic Muse. In Tragedy there is always something of a lie. Great poetry is always comic in the profound sense. Comedy is abundance of life. All true poets are gay, fantastically humorous.
“Signposts”, Collected Pruse (London: MacGibbon & Kee 1967), p.25.

If I happened to meet a poet - and I have met poets - I would expect him to reveal his powers of insight and imagination even if he talked of poultry farming, ground rents or any other commonplace subject. Above all, I would expect to be excited and have my horizons of faith and hope widened by his ideas on the only subject that is of any real importance - Man-in-this-world - and why.
 He would reveal to me the gay, imaginative God who made the grass and the trees and the flowers, a God not terribly to be feared.
“The Irish Tradition”, in Collected Pruse, 1967, p.233.

There is nothing as dead and damned as an important thing. The things that really matter are casual, insignificant little things, things you would be ashamed to talk of publicly. You are ashamed and then after years some one blabs and you find that you are in the secret majority. Such is fame.
“From Monaghan to the Grand Canal”, in Collected Pruse, 1967, p.19.

The poet’s secret, which is not a secret but a form of high courage, is that he, in a strange way, doesn’t care. The poet is not concerned with the effect he is making; he forgets himself.
Collected Pruse, 1964, p.28.

There are two kinds of simplicity, the simplicity of going away and the simplicity of return. The last is the ultimate in sophistication. In the final simplicity we don’t care whether we appear foolish or not. We talk of things that earlier would embarrass. We are satisfied with being ourselves, however small.
Collected Pruse, 1967, pp.20-21.

The Great Hunger is concerned with the woes of the poor. A poet merely states the position and does not care whether his words change anything or not. The Great Hunger is tragedy and tragedy is underdeveloped comedy, not fully born. Had I stuck to the tragic thing in The Great Hunger, I would have found many powerful friends.
“Author’s Note” [Preface], in Collected Poems, 1967, p.xiv.

I have a belief in poetry as a mystical thing, and a dangerous thing. ...

Tragedy is underdeveloped Comedy, not fully born. Had I stuck to the tragic thing in The Great Hunger, I would have found many powerful friends. ...

 But I lost my messianic compulsion. I sat on the bank of the Grand Canal in the summer of 1955 and let the waters lap idly on the shores of my mind. My purpose in life was to have no purpose.
“Author’s Note” [Preface], Collected Poems, 1964, p.xiii-xiv.

No man need be a mediocrity if he accepts himself as God made him. God only makes geniuses. But many men do not like God’s work. The poet teaches that every man has a purpose in life, if he would submit and serve it, that he can sit with his feet to the fire of an eternal passion, a valid moral entity.
Collected Pruse, 1967, p.28.

[ back ]

[ top ]