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« "I Cry" [by Herb Engelhardt] | Main | It's Lovely Weather for a Sleigh Ride Together with You (by Laura Orem) »

December 21, 2011


Brilliant post Terence! And the perfect one for the holiday. It makes me want to go back and read him again with new insight. Thank you for the service you've done for Kavanagh's poetry and for poetry lovers.

Wow. I haven't thought about this poem in years. I never got much involved with the political issues around the rejection of Kavanagh; it just seemed like he was an incredibly gifted writer and everything else counted for much less. This does make me want to pull some books down from the shelf and look through his stuff again.

I've had the colleted poems for years and for some reason this poem eluded me--or I eluded it. Anyway, it is a lovely piece and thanks for bringing it to the surface, especially at this time of year.

Lovely piece - and thanks for the link to Raglan Road. It sure is some special time of the year. Happy days to you.

I first heard On Raglan Road sung, and its story told, by the late great Frank Harte. Which it seems is where I first heard pretty much every song of worth sung.

But Van the Man does a good version too.

Re: "On Raglan Road:" Is there a line more beautiful than "And I said, 'Let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.'" ? The first time I heard it, it made me catch my breath. (The High Kings also have a lovely version of the song.)

I'm going to go read some Kavanagh again - thanks for posting this, Terence.

Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain Shona, to you and yours.

Kavanagh was a great one, no doubt. This was a real treat to read -- somehow, I had managed to have never read "A Christmas Childhood" until today -- and a very fitting tribute. As a moody, "you'll not get a word out of me" kind of peasant, I cheered the whole piece, and then went immediately to the Van Morrison recording, which I have always loved.

By the way, who's this Yeats fellow?

I'd like to echo Laura Orem's wonderful closer, even though I don't know how to pronounce it.

There's an interesting clip online of Kavanagh himself singing the first few lines of "Raglan Road," with a quick cut to Luke Kelly of The Dubliners taking over the lyric from there. I think Kelly, whom I met a few times in Dublin in 1966, was the first to render the poem as a song.

For all your pronunciation needs, I recommend the Google translator lady. She's very good at what she does.

Lovely piece, Terry. A toast to the ill-mannered loud mouths of poetry. Comme nous. -- DL

For what it's worth, the definitive song version of Raglan Road is often handed to a man called Luke Kelly, and is the reason why people like Van Morrison and Sinead O'Connor sing that poem today. Give it an old Youtube or Google search and you'll understand why.

Yes, you're quite right---see my reply above to John Kerr's comment.

Beautiful beautiful post T. The poem brings tears to my eyes and the song, well, I love Van Morrison and this version of Raglan Road is so moving.

Much love to you this holiday season.

Thanks Terry,

If ever you go to Dublin town
In a hundred years or so
Inquire for me in Baggot Street
And what I was like to know.

I met Patrick Kavanagh outside Parson's bookstore on Baggot Street back in 1964. Knowing who he was, I attempted to say hello, but was greeted with a grouchy snarl. He was wearing his battered hat askew...He lived up to his reputation.

It is a lovely piece as your Celebration is. Could you share the Bronx Irish Christmas 'Celebration' with me again?

That's a great link, Stefano.  The Dubliners turned this into a much more commercially viable song---Ronnie Drew's version is particularly cool.

Mary---Mick Moloney & Co. just released a new Christmas CD, called An Irish Christmas, which includes his rendition of "Celebration."  My post from last year can be found at

As I read A Christmas Childhood, I kept hearing Johnny Cunningham's voice (especially on the word "melodeon"). And then I realized I have a CD with him reciting it.

I never knew the title or the author (sometimes recordings come from mysterious places). So, now there is a fork in my reading road and I must veer off and read Kavanagh. This was a great gift you've given to all of us Terry. Thank you.

Thanks, Abbie.  You'll have to play JC's version for me---I've never heard it.

As Terence Winch, one of America's finest poets, reminded us, Patrick Kavanagh's two best-known, best-loved poems are "Raglan Road" and "A Christmas Childhood." Of the two, I still prefer "Raglan Road" as both a poem and a song. I like Van Morrison and the Chieftains' rendition of the song, but the best version I ever heard appears on Dick Gaughan's sadly out-of-print and/or hard-to-find solo album in 1976, "Kist O'Gold," on Bill Leader's old Trailer label. No one has a voice like Gaughan's.

Here are the song lyrics of "Raglan Road":

On Raglan Road on an August day I saw 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 true 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, by such is happiness thrown away

I gave her gifts of the mind, I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artist who has seen 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 long dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where the 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.

Bravo, Terence, for bringing Kavanagh's poetic gifts back to us this holiday season.

Earle Hitchner

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