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Great Irish Poem: Stony Grey Soil, by Patrick Kavanagh

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Patrick Kavanagh is back once again for another top Irish poem. This one actually ranks in the top 10. Coming in at number 9, wow. 

You can read Kavanagh’s other Irish poems on the list here.

You have to admit that Kavanagh is truly is the greatest of all Irish poets.

Unlike Yeats, who romanticised the Irish peasantry to almost ridiculously patronising heights; Kavanagh, (himself a poor Irish farmer), saw this way of life for what it really was.

As with so many of his other poems, this use of imagery really takes you to the place. The poem “Stony Grey Soil” perfectly reflects what real life was like for the Irish peasantry. 

Kavanagh certainly has earned his title as a rural man. After all, he spent the first half of his life farming ‘the stony grey soil’ of his native Monaghan. 

The very title, ‘Stony Grey Soil’ suggests a hard and unimaginative world. This, of course, is not an ideal environment for a poet. 

But what I like about this poem is that Kavanagh says that the tough life made him who he is today. It was because of this unimaginative world that he became the person he did. And after all, is that not the case for all of us in life? 

Enjoy this wonderful Irish poem. Also if you do like this poem then I recommend you also read “Spraying By The Potatoes” by Patrick Kavanagh

I picked this idyllic picture for this poem: 

stony grey soil by Patrick Kavanagh


by Patrick Kavanagh

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 mandril 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 stilll 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.

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