Patrick Kavanagh, Collected Poems (London MacGibbon & Kee 1964; 1968)

Front Pages

Author’s Note

I have never been much considered by the English critics. I suppose I shouldn’t say this. But for many years I have learned not to care, and I have also learned that the basis of literary criticism is usually the ephemeral. To postulate even semi-absolute standards is to silence many lively literary men.
  I would not object if some critic said I wasn’t a poet at all. Indeed, trying to think of oneself as a poet is a peculiar business. What does it feel like to be a poet?
  I am always shy of calling myself a poet and I wonder much at those young men and sometimes those old men who boldly declare their poeticality. If you ask them what they are, they say: Poet.
  There is, of course, a poetic movement which sees poetry materialistically. The writers of this school see no transcendent nature in the poet; they are practical chaps, excellent technicians. But somehow or other I have a belief in poetry as a mystical thing, and a dangerous thing.
  A man (I am thinking of myself) innocently dabbles in words and rhymes and finds that it is his life. Versing activity leads him away from the paths of conventional unhappiness. For reasons that I have never been able to explain, the making of verses has changed the course of one man’s destiny. I could have been as happily unhappy as the ordinary countryman in Ireland. I might have stayed at the same moral age all my life. Instead of that, poetry made me a sort of outcast. And I was abnormally normal.
  I do not believe in sacrifice and yet it seems I was sacrificed. I must avoid getting too serious.
  I belong to neither of the two kinds of poet commonly known. There is the young chap who goes to school and university, is told by lecturers of the value of poetry, and there is the other kind whom we somehow think inspired. Lisping in numbers like Dylan Thomas, Burns, etc.
  Looking back, I see that the big tragedy for the poet is poverty. I had no money and no profession except that of small farmer. And I had the misfortune to live the worst years of my life through a period when there were no Arts Councils, Foundations, Fellowships for the benefit of young poets.
  On many occasions I literally starved in Dublin. I often borrowed a 'shilling for the gas’ when in fact I wanted the coin to buy a chop. During war, in Dublin, I did a column of gosip for a newspaper at four guineas a week. [xiv]
  I suppose when I come to think of it, if I had a stronger character, I might have done well enough for myself. But there was some kink in me, put there by Verse.
  In 1942 I wrote The Great Hunger. Shortly after it was published a couple of hefty lads came to my lonely shieling on Pembroke Road. One of them had a copy of the poem behind his back. He brought it to the front and he asked me, 'Did you write that?’ He was a policeman. It may seem shocking to the devotee of liberalism if I say that the police were right. For a poet in his true detachment is impervious to policemen. There is something wrong with a work of art, some kinetic vulgarity in it when it is visible to policemen.
  The Great Hunger is concerned with the woes of the poor. A true poet is selfish and implacable. 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.
  But I lost my messianic compulsion. I sat on the bank of the Grand Canal in the summer of 1955 and let the water lap idly on the shores of my mind. My purpose in life was to have no purpose.
  Besides The Great Hunger there are many poems in this collection which I dislike; but I was too indifferent, too lazy to eliminate, change or collect. For these and other reasons I must offer thanks to Mr Martin Green who made the collection.
 
London 1964
xiii-xiv

Bibliographical Note

IT was not possible nor necessarily desirable to publish the poems in this volume in strict chronology. Part I contains the whole of Ploughman and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1936), Part II is concluded by The Great Hunger (Cuala Press, 1942), and Part Ill includes all the poems in A Soul for Sale (Macmillan, 1947), with the exception of The Great Hunger, previously mentioned, which first appeared, as it does here, unabridged. Part IV contains most of Come Dance with Kitty Stobling (Longmans, Green, 1960), though a number of these poems were written considerably earlier; these are therefore to be found in Part II, where they belong. The latter part of the book falls into three main groups, the divisions here being mostly of mood or theme, though Part 3 of Later Poems includes those most recently published.
  Many of the poems in this collection first appeared in journals and magazines too numerous to mention here, and the publishers would like to make due acknowledgement to these, as well as to the publishers of the four books mentioned above.

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Contents

Author's Note Page
Bibliographical Note

I: Ploughman and Other Poems
Ploughman
To A Blackbird
Mary
I May Reap
The Goat Of Slieve Donard
Ascetic
The Intangible
Beech Tree
Soft Ease
A Star
Dark Ireland
To A Child
To A Late Poplar
Dreamer
Gold Watch
Twisted Furrows
Worship
Phoenix
After May
The Chase
Four Birds
Blind Dog
Tinker's Wife
April
To A Child
Inniskeen Road: July Evening
Pioneers
A Wind
At Noon
March
Morning

II: “The Great Hunger” And Other Poems
To The Man After The Harrow 27
Plough Horses 27
From Tarry Flynn 28
My Room 29
Shancoduff 30
Pygmalion 31
Peace 31
Beyond The Headlines 32
Pursuit Of An Ideal 32
In The Same Mood 33
The Great Hunger 34

Pt. III: From A Soul for Sale
Pegasus
Father Mat
Temptation in Harvest
Bluebells For Love
Advent
A Christmas Childhood
Memory Of My Father
The Long Garden
Primrose
Art Mccooey
Spraying The Potatoes
Ethical
Sanctity
Candida
War and Peace
Stony Grey Soil
Memory Of Brother Michael
A Wreath For Tom Moore's Statue

IV: Later Poems including Come Dance With Kitty Stobling
The Road To Hate
The Paddiad
Jungle
The Defeated
Bank Holiday
Adventures In The Bohemian Jungle
Irish Stew
The Christmas Mummers
Tale Of Two Cities
Spring Day
who killed James Joyce?
House Party to Celebrate the Destruction of the Roman Catholic
Church in Ireland
Joyce's Ulysses
Portrait Of The Artist
Leave Them Alone
Auditors In
Innocence
Cyrano De Bergerac
Ante-Natal Dream
To Be Dead
Prelude
on looking into e.v. Rieu’s homer
Kercs Ass
Epic
On Reading A Book On Common Wild Flowers
I Had A Future
The Rowley Mile
Wet Evening In April
The Hero
If Ever You Go To Dublin Town
Narcissus And The Women
Intimate Parnassus
God In Woman
Nineteen Fifty-Four
After Forty Years Of Age
Having Confessed

Pt. 2
Canal Bank Walk
Lines Written On A Seat On The Grand Canal Dublin, 'Erected To The Memory Of Mrs Dermot O'Brien'
Dear Folks
Song At Fifty
The Hospital
Is
To Hell With Commonsense
Freedom
Requiem For A Mill
Love In A Meadow
Yellow Vestment
Come Dance With Kitty Stobling
Miss Universe
The One
October
Winter
The Self-Slaved
In Memory Of My Mother
Question To Life

Pt. 3
Lecture Hall
Living In The Country:I
Living In The Country:II
Mermaid Tavern
One Wet Summer
The Gambler: A Ballet With Words
The Gambler: A Ballet
News Item
A Summer Morning Walk
A Ballad
No Social Conscience
An Insult
On Raglan Road
Literary Adventures
Sensational Disclosuresi (Kavanagh Tells All)
The Same Again
Thank You, Thank You
About Reason, Maybe
That Garage
In Blinking Blankness: Three Efforts
Index Of First Lines

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