Another of my favourite Patrick Kavanagh poems, that shows his extraordinary gift for the transmutation of the mundane.
We borrowed the loan of Kerr’s big ass
To go to Dundalk with butter,
Brought him home the evening before the market
An exile that night in Mucker.
We heeled up the cart before the door,
We took the harness inside —
The straw-stuffed straddle, the broken breeching
With bits of bull-wire tied;
The winkers that had no choke-band,
The collar and the reins . . .
In Ealing Broadway, London Town
I name their several names
Until a world comes to life —
Morning, the silent bog,
And the God of imagination waking
In a Mucker fog.
Thank you David, and thank you Patrick. (And thank you God of imagination!)
From an article in the London Review of Books: “Kavanagh was born in 1904 in the townland of Mucker in the parish of Inniskeen, County Monaghan”. (A townland is a small geographical division of land, historically and currently used in Ireland and in the Western Isles in Scotland, typically covering 100–500 acres.) The ass is borrowed from outside Mucker, so for one night is an “exile” in Mucker.
There’s a kind of magic in the names of the ass’s equipment. This might be compared to the magic of the place names in “American Names” (Week 360).
And compare also the line in Kavanagh’s ‘The Hospital’ (week 471): ‘Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge’.
The names are plain in “The Hospital” but Kavanagh picks each element up, turns it round, and puts it lovingly back down?
In ‘Kerr’s Ass’ he is, of course, handling only the memory of the things, he himself being an exile in London, but that is enough to evoke his home country.