Raglan Road is one of the most popular poems from the great Irish writer Patrick Kavanagh.
However, it is now probably better known as a song, having been recorded by hundreds of artists across the world.
The poem tells the story of Kavanagh’s unsuccessful love affair with a beautiful young medical student he met while walking along Raglan Road where he lived.
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met 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 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 artists who have known 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 own dark hair like clouds over fields of May.
On a quiet street where 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.
At the age of 40, Patrick Kavanagh fell in love with a 22-year-old Dublin medical student called Hilda Moriarty.
He met her on Raglan Road and they went on to have brief but intense relationship. Kavanagh was besotted but she did not reciprocate his feelings and the couple soon split up. Years later she told an RTE documentary that the age gap between them was too great to overcome.
Moriarty later said that during her brief relationship with Kavanagh, she had teased him about the way he wrote about agricultural themes all the time. She urged him to write about something else. When the relationship ended, Kavanagh responded with the poem that would later be known as Raglan Road.
He was originally going to called it Dark Haired Hilda Ran Away but he wanted to protect her identity so he borrowed the name of his brother’s girlfriend. The poem was published under the title, Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away.
Kavanagh later set the poem to an old Irish folk tune called Dawning of the Day. He offered the song to Luke Kelly of The Dubliners folk group who recorded and made it popular across the world under the title, Raglan Road.
All images copyright Ireland Calling