Kavanagh’s tribute – On the Death of Jim Larkin

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems

The last lines of this poem by Kavanagh are on the plinth where the statue of Jim Larking stands on O’Connell Street, Dublin.

Patrick Kavanagh. On the Death of Jim Larkin
Image copyright Ireland Calling

On the Death of Jim Larkin

Not with public words now can his greatness
Be told to the children, for he was more
Than a labour-agitating orator —
The flashing flaming sword merely bore witness
To the coming of the dawn. ‘Awake and look!
The flowers are growing for you, and wonderful trees,
And beyond are not the serf’s grey docks, but seas —
Excitement out of the creator’s poetry book.

When the Full Moon’s in the River the ghost of bread
Must not haunt all your weary wanderings home.
The ships that were dark galleys can become
Pine forests under the winter’s starry plough
And the brown gantries will be the lifted hand
Of man the dreamer whom the gods endow.’

And thus I hear Jim Larkin shout above
The crowd who wanted him to turn aside
From Reality coming to free them. Terrified
They hid in the clouds of dope and would not move.
They ate the opium of the murderer’s story
In the Sunday newspapers; they stood to stare
Not at a blackbird, but at a millionaire
Whose horses ran for serfdom’s greater glory.

And Tyranny trampled them in Dublin’s gutter,
Until Larkin came along and cried
The call of Freedom and the call of Pride,
And Slavery crept to its hands and knees,
And Nineteen Thirteen cheered from out the utter
Degradation of their miseries.

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