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‘O Commemorate me…’

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A group of literature students from the U.S. taking the See Dublin by Bike literary tour, at the Kavanagh memorial on the Grand Canal Bank.

‘Oh commemorate me where there is water’ (Patrick Kavanagh).

One of the most tranquil places we can stop on our See Dublin by Bike tour is here in Dublin 4 at the Patrick Kavanagh bronze statue. The Grand Canal Bank was this poet from County Monaghan’s little oasis in the big city. Visitors who mightn’t have heard of Kavanagh (1904-1967), identify with his words when we pause to read lines from, ‘In 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…’

Patrick.Kavanagh.by.Patrick.Swift(Portrait by Patrick Swift, 1960)

Then in the last verse, Kavanagh excels himself:

‘Every old man I see,

In October coloured weather,

Seems to say to me,

I was once your father.’

Kavanagh wasn’t from Dublin, but spent nearly half his life here, in exile, really. He was a small farmer from Iniskeen, Co Monaghan. He didn’t start writing till his mid twenties when he came across a journal called The Irish Statesman…He struggled for recognition then…The Great Hunger was his breakthrough work.

He was drawn to Dublin as the literary hub, but he never really left the land. This is echoed through his poetry. He was like a lot of people who end up living in big cities and never really belonging. This part of  the city was really his little bit of countryside.

The monument came about because of Kavanagh’s fondness for this part of the city, immortalised by him in his work:

‘Oh commemorate me where there is water,

Canal water preferably, so stilly

Greeny in the heart of summer. Brother

Commemorate me thus beautifully

Where by a lock niagarously roars

The falls for those who sit in the tremendous silence

Of mid July. No one will speak in prose who finds his way to these Parnassian Islands…’