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Best Famous Patrick Kavanagh Poems

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by Galway Kinnell |

Oatmeal

 I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
I eat it alone. 
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health 
 if somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have 
 breakfast with.
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary 
 companion. 
Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge, 
 as he called it with John Keats.
Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him: 
due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, 
 and unsual willingness to disintigrate, oatmeal should 
 not be eaten alone.
He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eat 
 it with an imaginary companion, and that he himself had 
 enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and John 
 Milton.
Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not as 
 wholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn something 
 from it.
Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the 
 "Ode to a Nightingale."
He had a heck of a time finishing it those were his words "Oi 'ad 
 a 'eck of a toime," he said, more or less, speaking through 
 his porridge.
He wrote it quickly, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in his 
 pocket, 
but when he got home he couldn't figure out the order of the stanzas, 
 and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and they 
 made some sense of them, but he isn't sure to this day if 
 they got it right. 
An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacket 
 through a hole in his pocket.
He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas, 
 and the way here and there a line will go into the 
 configuration of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up 
 and peer about, and then lay itself down slightly off the mark, 
 causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble.
He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about 
 the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some 
 stanzas of his own, but only made matters worse.
I would not have known any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmeal 
 alone.
When breakfast was over, John recited "To Autumn."
He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words 
 lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.
He didn't offer the story of writing "To Autumn," I doubt if there 
 is much of one.
But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field go thim started 
 on it, and two of the lines, "For Summer has o'er-brimmed their 
 clammy cells" and "Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours," 
 came to him while eating oatmeal alone. 
I can see him drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmering 
 furrows, muttering.
Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion's tatters.
For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch.
I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneaously 
 gummy and crumbly, and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanagh 
 to join me.


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Epic

 I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul"
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel—
"Here is the march along these iron stones"
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Til Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.


by Patrick Kavanagh |

In Memory Of My Mother

 I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday--
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle--'
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life--
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after 
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us -- eternally.


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Memory Of My Father

 Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when sheaves were gathered.
That man I saw in Gardner Street
Stumbled on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.
And I remember the musician
Faltering over his fiddle
In Bayswater, London,
He too set me the riddle.
Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me:
"I was once your father."


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Primrose

 Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, I said, to find
One small page of Truth's manuscript made clear.
I looked at Christ transfigured without fear--
The light was very beautiful and kind,
And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed
I read it through the lenses of a tear.
And then my sight grew dim, I could not see
The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,
And there was but the shadow of a tree
Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Shancoduff

 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.

My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket.
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves 
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage.

The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: ‘Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor.'
I hear and is my heart not badly shaken?


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Stony Grey Soil

 O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

You clogged the feet of my boyhood
And I believed that my stumble
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And his voice my thick tongued mumble.

You told me the plough was immortal!
O green-life conquering plough!
The mandrill stained, your coulter blunted
In the smooth lea-field of my brow.

You sang on steaming dunghills
A song of cowards' brood,
You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch,
You fed me on swinish food

You flung a ditch on my vision
Of beauty, love and truth.
O stony grey soil of Monaghan
You burgled my bank of youth!

Lost the long hours of pleasure
All the women that love young men.
O can I still stroke the monster's back
Or write with unpoisoned pen.

His name in these lonely verses
Or mention the dark fields where
The first gay flight of my lyric
Got caught in a peasant's prayer.

Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco-
Wherever I turn I see
In the stony grey soil of Monaghan
Dead loves that were born for me.


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Canal Bank Walk

 Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.
The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture 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 be honoured with a new dress woven 
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.


by Patrick Kavanagh |

Advent

 We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.