Patrick Kavanagh

(1904 - 1967 / County Monaghan)

Shancoduff


My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel.

My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket.
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage.

The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: "Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor."
I hear and is my heart not badly shaken?

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Andrew Hoellering (2/8/2009 5:11:00 AM)

    The last line is meant to be ironic, for the cattle drivers miss the point. They are put off by the vey bleakness and self-sufficiency of the black hills that appeals to the poet, who in the second verse is also able to recount a personal experience of a kind denied to them.
    Kavanagh's love of nature for its own sake has never been clearer. (Report) Reply

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