extract from Patrick Kavanagh’s long poem THE GREAT HUNGER
O he loved his mother
Above all others
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the back of some summer stream:
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
His two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust-nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.
The Great Hunger isn’t about the Famine. It’s about the hunger for, love, food, land, life…everything. But mostly it’s about the hunger for sex…
Patrick Kavanagh was born in the village of Enniskeen, Co Monaghan on 21st October 1904. The son of a shoemaker and small farmer, he moved to Dublin at the age of 35, where he lived in poverty for most of his life. He survived on handouts, bits of journalism, and being supported for a time by his younger brother, Peter, who was teaching in the city. On Raglan Road is a poem about his doomed love-affair with Hilda Moriarty. Hilda was middle-class, the daughter of a wealthy Kerry doctor; he was a penniless poet, uncouth and unwashed, of small-farmer stock – indeed, a small farmer himself, who had forsaken the plough for the pen. His finest poem ‘The Great Hunger’ was so controversial that he was threatened with prosecution under the obscene publications act. Always a controversial figure, he was hated as much as loved in Dublin, and his long-running feud with Brendan Behan is well-chronicled. To Behan he was’ the fucker from Mucker’, while Patrick maintained that the only journey Brendan ever made was ‘from being a national phony to becoming an international one’.
ON RAGLAN ROAD
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.