Stony Grey Soil

Stony Grey Soil was written by Patrick Kavanagh about his home county of Monaghan in the north of Ireland.

Kavanagh was brought up as a farm labourer and experienced at first hand the hardships of rural life.

Notes and analysis
Kavanagh’s bitterness
Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
Patrick Kavanagh

He didn’t romanticise the peasant life as many city based poets did. Stony Grey Soil has a bitter tone in which Kavanagh berates his background for having robbed him of his youth and crushed his spirit.

Stony Grey Soil by Patrick Kavanagh. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Stony Grey Soil

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 still 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.

Stony Grey Soil by Patrick Kavanagh. Image copyright Ireland Calling
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Stony Grey Soil
Stony Grey Soil notes and analysis
Stony Grey Soil – Kavanagh’s bitterness
Patrick Kavanagh

All images copyright Ireland Calling

Ireland's 100 favourite poems

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